Tiger-Ernie's rare reunion

SAN DIEGO (California): Picking a winner at the World Match Play Championship has proven difficult, but most people are putting their money on Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. 

The US$6 million event will mark the first tournament this year that the two top-ranked players in the world are in the same field. 

“It is one of those things where we both have to win five matches in order to see each other,” said Woods after a rain-shortened practice session here on Tuesday. 

The world's top golfer said he is looking forward to the challenge of meeting the jet-setting Els, who has won four of five starts and finished second in another this year. 

“If we both play well at the same time then I think it will be a lot of fun not only for us but for everyone watching,” said the 27-year-old American. 

“But there aren't a whole lot of times we're both playing well at the same tournament.” 

In four years of the event, the top two have not advanced to a final where the winner gets US$1.05 million. 

The last time Woods and Els met in a tournament was the Tour Championship in November in Atlanta. Woods shared seventh while Els tied for 13th. 

Woods had a short practice session on Tuesday. He didn't get in a full round on the La Costa course which is showing the effects of a rainstorm that swept through the San Diego county area overnight. 

Els, of South Africa, did not practice at La Costa on Tuesday. 

Scott Crockett, of the PGA European Tour, said he had some other commitments, but Els was probably also getting over the jet lag after flying here from Australia via a stop over in Hawaii. 

Els had travelled approximately 38,000 miles in the first two months of the 2003 season. His stops have included South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Hawaii and Indonesia. 

Padraig Harrington of Ireland, said it is refreshing to see people talking about a serious challenger to Woods. 

“Maybe Ernie is representing the rest of professional golfers,” said Harrington. “It is interesting that people consider that Tiger has a challenger.” 

CARLSBAD (California): Tiger Woods is still undecided as to whether he will play next week's European Tour event in Dubai because of the political instability in the Middle East. 

Woods, who lost to Denmark's Thomas Bjorn in 2001, the last time he competed in Dubai, agreed to play the event last year but with the possibility of conflict in the region, he said he had had to take another look at his decision. 

Woods said he was still unsure of whether he would play in Dubai because of the information he was receiving from the US government. 

“It keeps changing,” Woods said of the information from the State Department. – Agencies 

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