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Accenture Match Play Championship

Defending champion Poulter chilled out for first match

Ritz-Carlton course heating up despite a winter snap in air


Ian Poulter was off the tee early Wednesday to defend his title in the Accenture Match Play Championship, but he didn't mind a chill in the Marana air for his match against veteran Stewart Cink.

"It's going to be the same for both of us. It's going to be cold. You're going to have to have the mitts on for the front nine, and hopefully you're a couple up the first nine holes," he said Monday during a post-practice news conference.

The temperature dipped to about 35 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain by the pair's 7:25 tee time, but it had warmed to 44 by 8:30 a.m. with the first twosome tied through two holes.

Golfers will head off the first tee in 10 minute increments though the morning. University of Arizona alum Jim Furyk was out at 8:25 against Ryan Palmer, and Englishman Paul Casey, who was runner up the past two years, was due to tee off at 9:05 against Aussie Richard Green, and perennial favorite Tiger Woods was due out at 11:45 against Denmark's Thomas Bjorn.

This year's Match Play might be your last chance to see the PGA in Tucson. The contract for the event runs out after this year - it's fifth in southern Arizona - and tournament officials have remained mum on a potential renewal. Should Accenture leave town, the Old Pueblo would be without PGA golf for the first time since the mid 1940s.

Woods, who interrupted last year's Accenture tournament with a news conference about his troubled marriage, has dipped to No. 3 in world rankings in the past 12 months. His ranking drop leaves room for Brit Lee Westwood at the top and German Martin Kaymer at No. 2.

The former No. 1 has his eye on a return.

"I thoroughly enjoyed winning a bunch of golf tournaments every year. You know, in order to get to No. 1 and to have that position and sustain it or to widen the gap, you have got to win golf tournaments. That's what I'm looking forward to doing," he said.

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Poulter, who is ranked 12th going into the tournament, likes the shuffle at the top.

"It makes it a lot more interesting for everybody - for the media, for the spectators, for us - to look at and think that that No. 1 spot is achievable," Poulter said.

Tickets are available at the gate for $55 for Wednesday. For complete ticket information, see pgatour.com.

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B. Poole/TucsonSentinel.com

Tiger Woods missed the 2010 Accenture tournament after he was fired by the sponsor and his failed marriage became tabloid fodder. He aims to reclaim his spot atop the World Golf Ranking.