Tiger, McIlroy both stunned in first round of Match Play

Shane Lowry upset Rory McIlroy in the opening round of Match Play on Thursday -- a day that also saw Tiger Woods get eliminated.

Shane Lowry upset Rory McIlroy in the opening round of Match Play on Thursday -- a day that also saw Tiger Woods get eliminated.

MARANA, Arizona -- Three-time winner Tiger Woods, despite playing well, was stunningly eliminated in the snow-delayed first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Thursday, losing 2 and 1 to Charles Howell III.

Woods never led in a flawless encounter where not one bogey was recorded but he got back to all square with four holes to play before fellow American and good friend Howell birdied the 15th and 16th to regain control.

Howell almost holed out with his approach at the par-15th, his ball settling just inches from the cup, then sank a 24-footer at the par-three 16th to go 2-up.

Both players parred the 17th in fading daylight at Dove Mountain as Woods was knocked out at the first hurdle for a third time at the World Golf Championships (WGC) event.

"I played well, I really did," Woods, Match Play champion in 2003, 2004 and 2008, told reporters. "I hit a lot of good shots out there. I didn't make a bogey out there.

"Unfortunately it's the nature of the format, and I'm not advancing. It's the nature of the format. You've just got to beat the guy you're playing against, and I didn't do that today."


Howell, playing Woods for the first time in this format in an official tournament since he lost to his compatriot in the quarter-finals of the 1996 U.S. amateur championship, was euphoric after his win.

"As far as beating Tiger Woods goes, it shows you that match play is crazy," he smiled after outscoring Woods by four birdies to two on a 7,791-yard layout playing ultra-long due to the wet, post-snow conditions.

"I did have to play a good round, but hey, it's a bit hard to believe I'm sitting here today with this (win). I've played a lot of golf with Tiger, and he's been a friend. He's helped me out along the way.

"I've had questions, I've asked for help from him, he's always been extremely gracious with that. I don't think I've ever beat the guy while we were playing in the same group. That goes back to (friendlies at) Isleworth."

Howell went 1-up for the first time with a birdie at the par-five second and again at the par-five eighth where he drained a 28-footer.

Though Woods kept in close touch, Howell effectively closed the door on the match with his two-birdie burst at 15 and 16.

"I knew I had to play extremely well to have a chance, and I still kept waiting for that Tiger moment," said the 33-year-old Howell, who is known for his workaholic approach to the game.

"He hit his second shot into 15 from the fairway, looked awfully good, but it pitched long. And his tee shot on 16 never left the flag. He missed that putt."

After Howell had rolled in his 24-footer at the par-three 16th, Woods missed with his birdie attempt from 11 feet.

"He never got more than one-up most of the day until he made that putt there at 16," said Woods, who also lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship in 2002 and 2011.

"But it was a tight match.

"I had some putts for birdie at 10, 11, 12. He had a (birdie) putt there at 14. We missed our share of putts out there. It was a good, solid match for both of us."

McIlroy also knocked out in first round

Ireland's Shane Lowry knew "deep down" that he could beat Rory McIlroy and drew on that self-belief to pull off a stunning upset over the world number one in the snow-delayed first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Thursday.

Ranked 68th in the world, Lowry chipped in twice for birdie after the turn to take control against his good friend before getting up and down from a greenside bunker to par the 18th and seal victory in fading light at Dove Mountain.

"I'm very happy to be honest," Lowry told reporters. "Obviously it was always going to be a tough match for me against Rory today, playing against the world number one. I'm feeling quite good now.

"Deep down I knew I could beat him. I'm not here for no reason. I'm not here to make up the numbers.

"But it's important not to get too high now because it's only the first round. I've got another match tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to playing that."

The 25-year-old Lowry will next meet either Swede Carl Pettersson or American Rickie Fowler, who will have to complete their first-round match early on Friday. Pettersson was one up after 17 holes.

"I didn't make enough birdies in the end," said the 23-year-old McIlroy. "Shane had a nice little stretch around part of the back nine. I hung in there, but I just didn't do enough.

"I probably would have lost by more if I had played someone else in the field. It wasn't a great quality match. I missed a lot of irons right."

Lowry, who has known twice major winner McIlroy since their amateur days, made a stumbling start, bogeys at the second, third and fourth leaving him two down.

Beaten in last year's final by American Hunter Mahan, McIlroy bogeyed the par-three sixth after missing the green well to the right for his lead to be trimmed to one and Lowry birdied the seventh to make it all square.


Though Lowry also faltered with another bogey at the ninth, he then took control in explosive fashion.

He chipped in from 18 feet to birdie the par-five 11th and holed out from double that distance from behind the green for another birdie at the par-three 12th, to go 1 up.

A stunning three-wood from Lowry at the par-five 13th, where his ball eventually settled just three feet from the flag, led to a conceded eagle there after McIlroy missed a birdie attempt from just five feet.

Lowry slipped up with a three-putt bogey at the par-four 14th but he got back to two up after the world number one made a hash of the 15th.

McIlroy's drive ended up next to a bush well left of the green from where he played left-handed, dumping his ball into a greenside bunker. With daylight fading, McIlroy bladed his third shot over the back of the green and conceded the hole.

McIlroy again pulled one back when he rolled in a nine-footer to birdie the short 16th but Lowry hung on with matching pars at 17 and 18 to wrap up the win.

"I was quite nervous starting off," said Lowry, who became only the third amateur to triumph on the European Tour with a playoff victory for the 2009 Irish Open.

"I handed him a few holes early doors, but he handed me a few back later on in the round. And this is match play, and I got a few breaks where I needed them, and I'm just fortunate to win."