McIlroy, Woods eliminated at Match Play
By Doug Ferguson ,APMARANA, Arizona -- Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were both eliminated from the Match Play Championship on Thursday — the first time in 11 years the top two seeds were knocked out on the first day.
February 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Shane Lowry made a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole to eliminate McIlroy, making it three years out of four that the top seed went home after day one.
“It's definitely a day I'm going to remember,” said Lowry, the third player in the last four years to beat the No. 1 seed in the opening round.
Moments later, Charles Howell III beat the second-seeded Woods on the 17th hole. Howell nearly holed a wedge for birdie on the 16th and made a 25-foot birdie on the 16th to seize control.
“I had nothing to lose,” said Howell, who started the year outside the top 100 in the world and hasn't qualified for this World Golf Championship in five years. “In this format, match play is crazy. He's Tiger Woods. I was lucky to hang in there.”
The final matches were played in near darkness, and they could have stopped after 15 holes. Woods wanted to play on, even though Howell had the momentum. Woods was 2 under for the day, and neither of them made a bogey.
“We both played well,” Woods said. “He made a couple of more birdies than I did. He played well, and he's advancing.”
McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world, built a 2-up lead early in the match until Lowry rallied and grabbed the moment by chipping in for birdie on the par-3 12th and then ripping a fairway metal to within a few feet for a conceded eagle on the 13th.
Lowry missed a short par putt on the 14th, only for McIlroy to give away the next hole with a tee shot into the desert and a bunker shot that flew over the 15th green and into a cactus. But the two-time major champion hung tough, coming up with a clutch birdie on the 16th to stay in the game.
McIlroy nearly holed his bunker on the 18th, and Lowry followed with a steady shot out to 4 feet and calmly sank the putt.
“Deep down, I knew I could beat him,” Lowry said. “There's a reason I'm here, and this is match play.”
For McIlroy, more questions are sure to follow him to Florida for his road to the Masters. He now has played only 54 holes in the first two months of the season, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi and losing in the first round at Dove Mountain.