Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are the top two seeded golfers for the Match Play Championship, which came as no surprise yesterday when the world rankings were released.

Getting them to the final will be the tricky part.

"Anything can happen in match play. We all know that," Woods said after winning the Buick Invitational, his first tournament since undergoing knee surgery on Dec. 12. "It's very unpredictable."

Els won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia, his fourth victory in five starts this year. The Match Play Championship, which starts on Feb. 26 at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif., will mark the first time Els and Woods have played in the same tournament since the Tour Championship.

The top-two seeded players have not advanced to the final since the Match Play Championship began in 1999. Woods, seeded No. 1 every year he has played, has reached the final once, losing to Darren Clarke in 2000.

Phil Mickelson (No. 3) and Vijay Singh (No. 4) are seeded first in the other two brackets.

Figure Skating

Worlds Remain a Go

There are no plans to cancel or move next month's figure skating world championships in Washington because of the possibility of war with Iraq.

The International Skating Union said it was "closely following" political developments leading to the March 23-30 competition.

"There are no plans under the present circumstances for a cancellation, transfer or postponement of the championships," the ISU said.

The skating body said it was working with federal and local authorities "to ensure the utmost security" at the event.

Olympics

Protection Promised

U.S. Olympic Committee employees with information that could help Congress clean up problems with the group will be protected by whistleblower laws, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) said.

Campbell said he hopes employees and athletes will be candid in discussing allegations of corruption and inefficiency at a public meeting at USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs next week.

Boxing

Mosley-De La Hoya Off

Shane Mosley couldn't get his price, so his Sept. 13 fight with Oscar De La Hoya is off.

Mosley had until yesterday to sign for a $4.25 million purse to fight De La Hoya. When he didn't, promoter Bob Arum withdrew the offer and said the fight would not happen.

Pro Football

Charges Dropped

Drug charges against Dallas Cowboys defensive end Peppi Zellner were dropped after his brother claimed responsibility for having crack cocaine in their car.

Magistrate Judge Frank Wilder dismissed the charges on the basis of a sworn statement from Mannon Lee Zellner Jr. that said his brother knew nothing about drugs being in the car or being tossed from the vehicle, Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick said.

Soccer

The Shoe Hits

David Beckham, the captain of England's national soccer team, was cut over his left eyebrow when he was struck by a shoe kicked in anger by Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson after losing to Arsenal, 2-0, on Saturday.

"It was a freak act of nature that happens, and it's over," Ferguson said in an interview shown by U.K. broadcaster ITN. "It was more than just me upset in there."

Broadcasting

Daytona Ratings Dip

Ratings for the rain-shortened Daytona 500 declined about 10 percent from last year's record.

Fox's telecast drew a 9.8 rating on Sunday, compared with NBC's 10.9 rating in 2002.

The Fox telecast was actually outpacing last year's ratings early in the race. But two rain delays that totaled more than two hours made it difficult for the network to hold the audience.

Ernie Els was in winning form at the Johnnie Walker Classic, but holding up his end at the Match Play Championship may be a little more difficult.