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Tiger is beatable, says Spaniard Fernandez-Castano

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) - Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano fancies the idea of being a 'Tiger tamer' at this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship where he will meet three-times winner Tiger Woods in the opening round.

Fernandez-Castano, ranked 48th in the world, has never previously played in the company of Woods and said that while it was a privilege to be drawn against him in the Arizona desert the 14-times major champion was beatable.

"It's a great opportunity, and you have to look at it that way," the 31-year-old from Madrid told reporters at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Monday.

"If you tee it up on Wednesday thinking, 'Oh, no, I'm playing against Tiger', that's not the way to start a tournament.

"I'm the underdog, I have nothing to lose. And at the same time I don't think he's at his best so it's a good opportunity. If I play well I can beat him."

Fernandez-Castano regards Woods, ranked 20th, as one of the greatest to play the game but hopes to make the most of his opportunity against an opponent working his way back to form after two years of struggle due to injuries and marital trouble.

"Being 48th in the world rankings at the moment, you don't expect to be paired against Tiger Woods," the Spaniard said of his first-round draw in the elite 64-man event. "But those things happen.

"He's probably not at his best, and you have to look at it that way. Maybe it's a good chance to play good, and maybe I can beat him. That would be a great feeling.

"He's won this tournament three times and he has a very good match play record, especially in his amateur days, but not so good on the Ryder Cup. I think he's beatable."

THREE-YEAR DROUGHT

Since launching his 2012 campaign, he has finished no worse than 26th in his first three events on the European circuit and he arrived at Dove Mountain this week in high spirits.

"I've had a good start to the season," Fernandez-Castano said. "I'm quite confident with my game and hopefully we can have a good tournament.

"Of course, to have a good tournament I need to first of all play the best golf of my life on Wednesday," he added with a broad grin.

Asked whether he might be distracted by the army of spectators and large media contingent which typically follow Woods, Fernandez-Castano replied: "I've played with big galleries before so I don't think that's going to be a problem.

"I'm sure they will all be rooting for him. I just want to enjoy it. I've never played with Tiger before, not even in a stroke play event. For me it's a big privilege.

"If I win, fantastic. If I lose, well, I've lost to one of the best players in history. I know I need to play my best golf and hopefully he doesn't play his best. That's the way it works. Match play is like that."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)