Fighting Irish to clash in Tucson

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington is expecting a battle of the Fighting Irish when he clashes with Jerry Kelly in Arizona tomorrow.

The in - form Dubliner left Rivera in buoyant mood after a storming back nine and a round of 68 gave him a share of third place behind Phil Mickelson in the Los Angeles Open.

Back to 10th in the world, Harrington is hoping to add a fistful of dollars to his bank account at this week’s WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship.

But he expects no favours from Irish-American pal Kelly, whose ancestors hail from the Harrington hotbed of County Cork.

Up four places to seventh in the Ryder Cup World Points List, Harrington said: “It doesn’t matter who you play in this tournament, you are always going to have a tough match and Jerry is going to be a hard one.

“He is tough and he is dogged and he is going to come out fighting and playing hard. Hopefully I will be prepared for that and I will be able to do the same.”

Nearly fully recovered from a week - long battle with flu, Harrington won't play his first practice round in Tucson until today as he bids to conserve his energy after a week battling the flu.

But he confessed that his confidence is higher than it has ever been going into the Accenture.

He said: “I would think that would be fair enough to say that. As I said, I could be a little bit better. I need a little bit more form, but at the moment, it’s not bad.”

Kelly, 41, has been teased by Harrington for his failure to make the Ryder Cup side so far in his career.

But their friendship will be put on hold at The Gallery where 63 of the world’s top 64 players are in action.

Harrington said: “We are good friends and it will be an enjoyable match. But there will be no quarter asked or given.

“My only regret this week is that it is a matchplay event. I’d prefer if it was strokeplay because you could be going home after one day. But it is what it is and I enjoy the event and the course.”

A native of Wisconson, Kelly was third in the Sony Open last month but has missed his last three cuts.

But the world No 56 has a strong record in the Accenture Match Play after reaching the quarter finals in 2003 and 2004.

Beaten by Stewart Cink in the second round last year, Harrington will be hoping to build on the form that saw him storm through to take third place alongside Luke Donald on Sunday.

Tied for 14th at Pebble Beach the week before L.A., he said: “I'm happy how things are going along. You know, it's always tough going into a match, if I come up against somebody who is in real good form.

“I don't know if I have the ability to raise my game at this time of the year. But certainly the first two weeks are encouraging.”

Describing his final round as “up and down”, Harrington is focussing entirely on getting his game ready for the Masters.

He explained: “All tournaments lead to the Masters at this time of the year. You're thinking about getting your game in shape so when the Masters comes around, you're ready.

“It's an interesting balance, because you don't want to come out too early, but you want to have enough tournaments under your belt so you feel competitive so, that's interesting.

“It's early season and this is what I'm here for. It's good to be in these positions that at least I'm being tested and shown up."

WGC - Accenture Match Play, first round draw

1 - Tiger Woods (U.S.) v 64 - J.B. Holmes (U.S.)

32 - Mike Weir (Canada) v 33 - Arron Oberholser (U.S.)

16 - Zach Johnson (U.S.) v 49 - David Toms (U.S.)

17 - Aaron Baddeley (Australia) v 48 - Mark Calcavecchia (U.S.)

8 - Rory Sabbatini (South Africa) v 57 - Bradley Dredge (Britain)

25 - Paul Casey (Britain) v 40 - Robert Karlsson (Sweden)

9 - K.J. Choi (South Korea) v 56 - Camilo Villegas (Colombia)

24 - Ian Poulter (Britain) v 41 - Soren Hansen (Denmark)

4 - Ernie Els (South Africa) v 61 - Jonathan Byrd (U.S.)

29 - Retief Goosen (South Africa) v 36 - Andres Romero (Argentina)

13 - Henrik Stenson (Spain) v 52 - Robert Allenby (Australia)

20 - Trevor Immelman (South Africa) v 45 - Shingo Katayama (Japan)

5 - Adam Scott (Australia) v 60 - Brendan Jones (Australia)

28 - Toru Taniguchi (Japan) v 37 - Woody Austin (U.S.)

12 - Sergio Garcia (Spain) v 53 - John Senden (Australia)

21 - Martin Kaymer (Germany) v 44 - Boo Weekley (U.S.)

2 - Phil Mickelson (U.S.) v 63 - Pat Perez (U.S.)

31 - Stuart Appleby (Australia) v 34 - Tim Clark (South Africa)

15 - Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) v 50 - Justin Leonard (U.S.)

18 - Lee Westwood (Britain) v 47 - Brandt Snedeker (U.S.)

7 - Justin Rose (Britain) v 58 - Rod Pampling (Australia)

26 - Scott Verplank (U.S.) v 39 - Nick O'Hern (Australia)

10 - Vijay Singh (Singh) v 55 - Peter Hanson (Sweden)

23 - Niclas Fasth (Sweden) v 42 - Richard Green (Australia)

3 - Steve Stricker (U.S.) v 62 - Daniel Chopra (Sweden)

30 - Richard Sterne (South Africa) v 35 - Hunter Mahan (U.S.)

14 - Angel Cabrera (Argentina) v 51 - Anders Hansen (Denmark)

19 - Luke Donald (Britain) v 46 - Nick Dougherty (Britain)

6 - Jim Furyk (U.S.) v 59 - Colin Montgomerie (Britain)

27 - Stephen Ames (Canada) v 38 - Charles Howell III (U.S.)

11 - Padraig Harrington (Ireland) v 54 - Jerry Kelly (U.S.)

22 - Stewart Cink (U.S.) v 43 - Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain)