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Accenture Match Play Championship

Weather could put chilly bite in Match Play tourney

Wind, rain & temperatures dipping below freezing expected in southern Arizona

Fans poured into the Ritz-Carlton's Golf Club at Dove Mountain on Tuesday, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the world's best golf talent in town for the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Tiger Woods was in the house, avoiding the press tent interview room as he played an afternoon practice round, as was Rory McIlroy, the only golfer ranked higher in the world than Woods. McIlroy enters Accenture ranked No. 1 despite not being in the top 10 in any aspect of the game tracked by the PGA. The Northern Irishman's first-round match is against countryman Shane Lowry, who got into the tournament only when Phil Mickelson bowed out for a vacation with his family. Lowry was looking forward to playing his friend.

“It's obviously going to be a very difficult match. He's the best golfer in the world at the minute and has been for the last few years. But for me to go out and play against the best golfer in the world – no matter who it is – is going to be quite exciting, and it's going to be a good test of my game,” Lowry said T uesday morning.

The pair will tee off at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday in what could prove a wet, blustery match. The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a winter storm warning for areas above 3,500 feet from 6 a.m.-6 p.m., though temperatures were expected to dip only as low as the mid 40s and stay there through Wednesday. Lows on Thursday are likely to hit the low 30s.

Despite the PGA decision to move here for better weather than Match Play's former home in California, conditions at the base of the Tortolita Mountains have dipped into the slightly uncomfortable more than once. Garcia fell victim in 2010, when his match against Brit Ian Poulter was suspended for 20 minutes amid 30 mph winds. He went on to lose the match. In 2011, semi-final matches were moved from Sunday to Saturday to account for possible snow delays, which didn't occur when the course got a light dusting on the third day.

Fans are expected to suffer a little Wednesday, when highs in the upper 40s are expected, along with winds gusting to 30 mph and rain most of the afternoon.

“I know the weather forecast for tomorrow isn't very good., and I'm glad I'm playing in the afternoon. I think the guys in the morning are going to be like icicles on the way in,” McIlroy said.

Matches start Wednesday at 7:25 a.m. with Spaniard Sergio Garcia vs. Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand and continue in 10 minute increments until 12:35 p.m. Woods plays at 12:25 p.m. against fellow American Charles Howell III, and local favorite Jim Furyk, a University of Arizona alum, plays at 9:35 a.m. against Ryan Moore.

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The field includes 43 international golfers from 16 nations, including South Africa (seven golfers), Australia (four), Spain (three), Germany (two) and Denmark (two). All but three of the top 64 golfers in the world are in the field. The Accenture Match Play is one of four World Golf Championship events. This year the tournament will again allow fans to follow golfers down the fairways for the semi-final and final rounds on Sunday.

Tickets for the tournament are available through www.worldgoflchampionships.com starting at $25 per day. Weekly passes cost $125.

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This scoreboard shows not only match scores and brackets, but also which golfers are on the course and what hole they are on.

“I know the weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t very good., and I’m glad I’m playing in the afternoon. I think the guys in the morning are going to be like icicles on the way in.”

— Rory McIlroy, No. 1 ranked golfer in the world