Brian Keogh in Tucson
Padraig Harrington faces a six foot, 205 pound banana skin in the formidable shape of Ryder Cup team mate Lee Westwood at The Gallery Golf Club near Tucson today.
But in common with Darren Clarke and the Dungannon man’s first round rival Sergio Garcia, the biggest challenge facing the European number one will be the huge, undulating putting surfaces of a desert track that plays into the hands of the long hitters.
At 7,466 yards, the course is long but generous off the tee. Its biggest defence is its greens and Clarke admitted that reading them well will play a major part in his bid to progress past the first round for the first time since he lost to Davis Love in the semi-finals at La Costa in 2004.
“I wish it was still at La Costa,” said Clarke, who beat Tiger Woods 4 and 3 there in 2000 to become Europe’s only winner of this WGC event. “La Costa has always been good to me, that goes without saying. But this course is as big a challenge as Sergio is.
“There are no easy games this week, doesn’t matter who you play. The course is fine, but the greens are difficult to read and there is a little bit of grain in them which is tough to see.”
Clarke often lives and dies by his putter and while he says he will not be heartbroken to make an early exit so that he can watch Ireland take on England from the corporate box at Croke Park on Saturday, he is hoping to make another run at the title.
Harrington faces an equally dangerous opponent in Westwood, who showed at the K Club last September why he is one of the most feared match players in world golf.
But the Dubliner is just as concerned about his ability to tackle a desert course where birdies may not be as easy to come by as many suspect.
"It's long,” Harrington said after his first practice round. “Longer than I expected and I'm surprised how windy it is too. Some of the long irons into the greens, because they are so undulating, are releasing too much.
"It's generous off the tee but it needs to be, because if you are in the rough, you are in dire trouble. The greens are undulating, which will make it tough if the ball starts moving around because of the wind and it will make it awkward for chipping too."
Harrington regards the new venue as a tougher challenge than La Costa, where he reached the quarter-finals in 2004 and again last year.
But if he makes as many birdies as he has in his last eight PGA Tour rounds - an impressive 37 - he could go all the way to the decider where he is seeded to meet Woods.
Total $8 million
Champion $1.35 million
Runner up $800,000
Quarter-final losers $260,000
Third round losers $130,000
Second round losers $90,000
First round losers $40,000
(Tee-times, seeding in brackets)
1-Tiger Woods (US) v 64-J.J. Henry (US)
32-Tim Clark (South Africa) v 33-Robert Allenby (Australia)
16-Nick O'Hern (Australia) v 49-Lucas Glover (US)
17-David Howell (Britain) v 48-Rory Sabbatini (South Africa)
8-Luke Donald (Britain) v 57-Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain)
25-Shingo Katayama (Japan) v 40-Aaron Baddeley (Australia)
9-Henrik Stenson (Sweden) v 56-Zach Johnson (US)
24-K.J. Choi (South Korea) v 41-Carl Pettersson (Sweden)
4-Phil Mickelson (US) v 61-Richard Green (Australia)
29-Michael Campbell (New Zealand) v 36-Justin Rose (Britain)
13-Sergio Garcia (Spain) v 52-Darren Clarke (Britain)
20-Stuart Appleby (Australia) v 45-Charles Howell III (US)
5-Ernie Els (South Africa) v 60-Bradley Dredge (Britain)
28-Ian Poulter (Britain) v 37-Bart Bryant (US)
12-Trevor Immelman (South Africa) v 53-Thomas Bjorn (Denmark)
21-Chris DiMarco (US) v 44-Brett Wetterich (US)
2-Jim Furyk (US) v 63-Brett Quigley (US)
31-Angel Cabrera (Argentina) v 34-Chad Campbell (US)
15-Davis Love III (US) v 50-Ben Crane (US)
18-David Toms (US) v 47-Arron Oberholser (US)
7-Vijay Singh (Fiji) v 58-John Rollins (US)
26-Robert Karlsson (Sweden) v 39-Stephen Ames (Canada)
10-Padraig Harrington (Ireland) v 55-Lee Westwood (Britain)
23-Stewart Cink (US) v 42-Jeev Milkha Singh (India)
3-Adam Scott (Australia) v 62-Shaun Micheel (US)
30-Yang Yong-Eun (South Korea) v 35-Rod Pampling (Australia)
14-Paul Casey (Britain) v 51-Mike Weir (Canada)
19-Colin Montgomerie (Britain) v 46-Johan Edfors (Sweden)
6-Retief Goosen (South Africa) v 59-Scott Verplank (US)
27-Joe Durant (US) v 38-Niclas Fasth (Sweden)
11-Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) v 54-Steve Stricker (US)
22-Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain) v 43-Paul Goydos (US)