World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and 14-time major champion Tiger Woods were toppled in the first round on Thursday in the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry, ranked 68th in the world and the 64th-seed in the 64-man field, defeated Northern Ireland’s McIlroy one-up, while Charles Howell defeated Woods two and one at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club course at Dove Mountain.
Lowry, McIlroy’s friend from their days in the amateur ranks, made his run on the back nine, chipping in for birdie to win the 12th hole and winning the 13th with an eagle to gain a two-up advantage.
“I was just trying to get up and down for the half, and it went in,” Lowry said of his chip-in at 12. “That kind of got me going. Then I hit a lovely five-wood to five feet at the next and that got me going for the rest of the round.”
McIlroy pulled one back at 14, but conceded the 15th after finding a series of bunkers.
He then birdied the par-three 16th for a win, but they halved the last two holes with pars, and Lowry emerged victorious.
Lowry was in a fairway bunker off the tee at 18, and a greenside bunker with his second shot.
However, McIlroy could not take advantage hitting his second shot into the same greenside bunker.
McIlroy’s bunker shot rolled within inches of the cup and was conceded par. Lowry blasted out to four feet and rolled in the match winner.
“I’m feeling quite good now,” said Lowry, who gave a sigh after his match winner dropped. “But it’s important not to get too high now, because it’s only the first round, and I’ve got another match tomorrow and am really looking forward to playing that.”
Neither Howell nor Woods made a bogey in their match, which ended with darkness closing in.
“I knew I had to play my best to have a chance out there,” Howell said, adding that his mindset throughout was that he had “nothing to lose.”
Howell never trailed after going one-up with a birdie at the second. Woods squared the match with a birdie at the fifth, but Howell edged ahead at the eighth. Woods won the 13th with a birdie, but Howell regained a one-up lead with a birdie at the 15th and held on.
He stretched his lead with a birdie to win 16. Woods could not birdie 17, and Howell’s two-putt par gave him the win.
“He’s the best of all time, I knew I had to play my best to even have a chance,” Howell said. “Fortunately, I holed a few nice ones there at the end.”
Woods, winner of this event in 2003, 2004 and 2008, has now failed to get out of the first round three times in his career, but said he could not complain about his game.
“We both played well,” Woods said. “He made a couple more birdies than I did.”
The round was continued from Wednesday, when a freak snowstorm in the Arizona desert cut short play. Thursday’s start was delayed for several hours.