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McIlroy and Westwood could replace Donald atop the world ranking by winning the Match Play Championship.
"Obviously, it's another incentive waking up each morning and knowing that if you win your match at the end of that day, at the end of the week you could be world No. 1," McIlroy said.
Even so, it's best not to look ahead. Too many things can happen, as was the case on a sunny day in the high desert.
Ian Poulter, the Match Play winner two years ago, suffered his worst loss in nine appearances when Bae Sang-moon beat him, 4 and 3.
Bill Haas, coming off that monster win at Riviera just three days ago, looked like a winner when he was 1 up on the 17th green and had a 5-foot birdie putt. Ryo Ishikawa holed from 18 feet, Haas missed, and the Japanese star made par on the 18th to win.
In the most thrilling match of the opening round, Jim Furyk was on the verge of sending Dustin Johnson home early for the fourth straight year after Johnson hit his tee shot into the desert and had to take a penalty drop on the 20th hole. Furyk chipped across the green and three-putted for bogey to lose.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello was 3 up with three holes to play against Jason Day when he bogeyed three straight holes, and Day beat him with a 4-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole.
Woods was 1 down until he drove the 15th green for a two-putt birdie, won the 16th with a par to go 1 up, and got up-and-down from a bunker after he missed the green from the 18th fairway.
"We both made our share of mistakes, there's no doubt about that," said Woods. "But somehow, I was able to move on."
Woods now plays Nick Watney, who had no trouble beating British Open champion Darren Clarke.
McIlroy, the highest seed remaining, faces Anders Hansen, while Westwood plays Robert Karlsson and No. 4 seed Martin Kaymer faces David Toms, who birdied the last hole to secure a win over Rickie Fowler.
Perhaps the most intriguing match is Kyle Stanley and Brandt Snedeker, who have been in a match play situation before. It was only a month ago when Stanley made triple bogey on the last hole at Torrey Pines, then lost in a playoff to Snedeker.
Stanley went on to win the next week in Phoenix.
There will be three All-American matches, three all-European matches and one all-Australian match. That would be John Senden against Day, and the only downer for the boys Down Under is that they're the only Australians left at Dove Mountain.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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