Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy ousted in first round of Match Play
MARANA, Ariz. -- The tournament that almost didn't get started, with a suspension because of a snowstorm Wednesday and then five separate delays on Thursday, came to a sudden end for the top two seeds in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both were losers. McIlroy, No. 1 in the world golf rankings, was stunned 1 up by Irishman Steve Lowry. Woods fell 2 and 1 to Charles Howell III, who even in friendly matches had never beaten him.
"We both played well," Woods said after losing in the opening round for a third time. "He made a couple more birdies than I did."
"I let him back in the match early," said McIlroy, "then he took advantage."
Lowry chipped in for birdies to win the 11th and 12th holes.
The top 64 in the world rankings are eligible for the Accenture. Lowry was 65th, and only at that spot because Patrick Reed sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to tie Fredrik Jacobson for seventh.
The snowstorm that Wednesday buried the fairways of the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, located at 2,800-foot elevation some 20 miles north of Tucson, meant not only did no one finish but Woods, McIlroy and others didn't start.
Play was set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday but was moved back five times because of frost and snow patches that didn't melt. The sun was out, but the temperature was only in the low 50s.
Woods, playing for the first time since winning at San Diego Jan. 27, insisted, "I never really missed a shot." But Howell, who has won only two tournaments in his 12 years as a pro, made a spectacular shot at the par-4 15th, dropping his wedge approach a foot from the pin for a birdie that gave him a 1 up lead. A birdie at 16 ended the match.
"In this [match play] format," said Howell, "anything can happen. It's crazy."
Defending champ Hunter Mahan made it through -- the second round will be played Friday, the third and quarterfinal rounds Saturday -- but 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood (a semifinalist in 2012) and Adam Scott were beaten.
Russell Henley, who at the Sony in Hawaii became the first rookie in 12 years to win his PGA Tour debut, beat Schwartzel. "Call me bracket buster," Henley said. In his previous six tournaments, Schwartzel had not been out of the top five.
It was a tough day for players named Johnson. Alexander Noren of Sweden defeated Dustin 6 and 5, and Jason Day beat Zach by the same score.
Bo Van Pelt was 5 up on the 13th when play was halted Wednesday. He needed only two swings Thursday to win 6 and 5 over John Senden.