Tiger Woods’ return from an eight-month layoff ended abruptly on Thursday as South African Tim Clark knocked the world No. 1 out of the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship.
Clark defeated Woods 4 and 2 in the second round, closing out the 14-time major champion with his sixth birdie of the day at the 16th hole.
“Well, I lost,” said Woods, whose first tournament since June had set the golf world buzzing.
“I played really well today, but didn’t make enough birdies. When you’re playing match play you have to make birdies and I didn’t do that today,” he said.
Woods, the defending champion and a three-time winner of the event, hadn’t teed it up since his US Open triumph in June, after which he had reconstructive surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“It felt really good,” Woods said of his knee. “I was very pleased that walking down the cart paths and playing, getting some rhythm of playing, that I have no soreness, no pain. Now it’s just a matter of getting back and playing more rounds.”
Woods had launched his comeback with a 3 and 2 victory over Australian Brendan Jones. But he found the going tougher against Clark.
Woods had gained the upper hand with a birdie at the second, but Clark squared the match when he drained a 68-foot birdie putt at five. Then Woods bogeyed the par-three sixth, where his ball was half-buried in a bunker, to fall behind for the first time in the tournament. He birdied the next to square the match, but Clark won three holes in a row from the 11th to take a 3-up lead with five to play.
Under pressure, Woods showed a flash of the old magic as he holed out from a greenside bunker at 14 to lie just 2-down.
But Woods was quickly in trouble again, when his tee shot at 15 was out of bounds in the desert cactus. Clark was in a pot bunker, and didn’t realize until he saw Woods trekking back to the tee that the American’s ball was out of bounds.
Woods landed his third shot 19 feet from the pin, but couldn’t make the improbable par and again found himself 3-down.
“Tim’s a wonderful player. He’s consistent and grinds it out and he made a bunch of birdies today,” Woods said. “I just didn’t get the ball in the hole.”
Clark next faces 19-year-old European sensation Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who defeated Hunter Mahan of the US 1-up.
England’s Luke Donald ousted Fiji’s Vijay Singh in 19 holes to set up a meeting with South African Ernie Els, a 3 and 2 winner over Steve Stricker.
US golfer Phil Mickelson again let a commanding lead slip, but pulled off a 1-up victory over compatriot Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion.
Mickelson next faces Stewart Cink, who finally downed England’s Lee Westwood in 23 holes.
Colombia’s Camilo Villegas completed a comfortable 5-and-4 victory over Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, setting up a third-round match with Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who rallied for a 19-hole victory over Japan’s Shingo Katayama.
England’s Oliver Wilson scored another match play victory over Anthony Kim, downing the rising US star 2 and 1.
AFP, RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO
US veteran Bo Van Pelt fired a sizzling seven-under par 63 on Thursday to seize a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the US$3.6 million US PGA Mayakoba Classic.
Australian Jarrod Lyle, who had five birdies in a bogey-free round, and American Chris Riley, who eagled the 17th, shared second on 65 in the quest for the US$648,000 top prize.