MARANA, Ariz. - It's just a golf tournament now, no longer an attraction. The thrill is gone, along with the man who for a few hours kept the sporting world captivated. In his much trumpeted comeback, Tiger Woods met his match.
Someone 13 days older than Tiger and light years less acclaimed stunned Woods, along with his fans, yesterday in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton course north of Tucson.
Tim Clark, whose time in the United States including semesters at North Carolina State have not diluted a South African accent, was a 4 and 2 winner over Woods. Tiger was playing only his second round after an eight-month layoff because of knee surgery.
"I lost," was Woods' accurate summation of the abbreviated comeback.
"I just didn't make enough birdies," Woods said. "I drove the ball well. It just didn't go into the hole. I had one bad 8-iron and one bad drive, so from the standpoint of ball striking I'm very pleased the way I hit the ball. When you're playing match play, you have to make birdies. I didn't."
Clark, 33, as is Woods, made six of them, four on the back nine when he tore into Tiger as Tiger normally tears into others. The match was all square after 10 holes. Then Clark won the 11th, 12th and 13th with birdies to go 3 up.
Even when Woods holed a greenside bunker shot to win 14, you sensed it wasn't enough. And then Tiger hit his tee shot on 15 some place toward the Mexican border, into the cactus and sagebrush. An out-of-bounds drive as he was running out of holes.
"I knew I had to play out of my mind to beat him," Clark told The Golf Channel, "and I needed him not to play his best. I played as good as I can play. I didn't expect to win."
But he did win and moved into today's third round against the 19-year-old Northern Irishman, Rory McIlroy, who beat Hunter Mahan, 1 up.
Phil Mickelson was a 1-up winner over 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson. Vijay Singh dropped the 17th, 18th and 19th holes to fall to Luke Donald, 1 up. With Woods and Singh beaten yesterday and Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington eliminated Wednesday, no top seed in the four brackets remains.
Clark won the Australian Open in December, but his career has been mostly near misses. He has six seconds in PGA Tour events, one of those at the 2006 Masters, when he was two strokes back of Mickelson. Woods, a three-time Accenture winner and defending champion, beat Clark 5 and 4 two years ago. "I knew what to expect," Clark said. "I knew I had to react differently, to calm myself."
Tiger was calm. Asked, "Where do you go from here?" he answered, "To the airport." Taking the excitement with him.