Woods, Poulter crash out early

Tiger Woods is out after the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, sent packing by Dane Thomas Bjorn.

Tiger Woods didn’t last very long at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday.

The long-time former world number one and owner of more Major and WGC titles than anyone else, was sent packing by Dane Thomas Bjorn at the 19th hole of their first-round 18-hole duel at the Carlton Ritz Golf Club’s Blue Monster golf course at Dove Mountain in Arizona

With the longest barren spell of his career now stretching to 18 events, Woods joined defending champion Ian Poulter in crashing out of the tournament in sudden death.

Despite some shocking shots – he hit his ball almost into the middle of the lake on the short third – Woods led by one with six to play, but Bjorn then birdied the 13th and 15th.

The former world number one, whose last victory was 15 months ago in Australia, a week prior to the sex scandal that exploded around him and put his life and his golf in turmoil, levelled with a nine-foot birdie putt on the last, but could not recover from a wild drive when they went to the exrta hole.

So Bjorn, only 134th on the rankings before he won the Qatar Masters earlier this month, claimed the scalp of the player whose only previous first-round round loss in this event was nine years ago to Australian Peter O’Malley.

“He’s not playing his absolute best, but there were a lot of good swings there,” said Bjorn. “He’s taking strides. There’s a way back for him and he’ll get there.”

Poulter lost to 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink – and last year’s runner-up Paul Casey breathed a huge sigh of relief that he did not exit as well.

Twelfth seed Poulter was two up with six to go, while sixth seed Casey, who has reached the last two finals in the event, survived only when Australian left-hander Richard Green three-putted the 19th.

In the end Casey squeezed through, but it was certainly touch and go.

Twelth-seed Poulter, on the other hand, was two up with six to go before he alllowed former Open Champion Cink to come back and beat him at the 19th hole

He said: “I really should have shut the match out, to be honest with you.

“Every credit to him. He holed putts at the right time and that’s what you have to do in this format.

“He putted me off the golf course. I missed my chances and therefore I have been punished.”

Casey commented: “I just never got it going. I didn’t birdie any par five – it really was pretty poor. I made a real botch of the 17th, but Richard kind of handed it to me on the 19th.”

Casey joined fellow Englishmen Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Ross Fisher and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy in progressing before Justin Rose beat former Masters Champion Zach Johnson 2&1 in the final game.

Surprised to be sent out in the very first match just before 8am – 30 minutes later than planned because of frost – Poulter’s interest in the event had ended before Woods and top seed Westwood had even played a hole.

Donald was the first player into the last 32, thrashing American Charley Hoffman by a 6&5 margin. He will next play Ryder Cup team-mate Edoardo Molinari.

Donald’s victory threatened to be an even more convincing when he took seven of the first 10 holes.

“Charley was not on his A-game,” he said. “I was probably three or four under and I’ll take the win, but it was not too hard fortunately.”

Molinari came from two down after six to beat Scot Martin Laird 3&2, but that was not the biggest turnaround. Ernie Els lost the first three holes to American Jeff Overton and looked to be on his way out, but fought back and finally won on the 19th.

There is another all-European Ryder Cup clash in the second round where Celtic Manor hero McDowell is set to play Fisher, while Westwood, who overcame Henrik Stenson, next plays American Nick Watney – the player who beat him here last year.

US Open Champion McDowell and Fisher both won 4&3, the Northern Irishman against American Heath Slocum and the Englishman against Australian Robert Allenby.

“It was reasonably straightforward,” said McDowell, the fifth seed.

“Heath didn’t have his best day and for a change I played nicely and got the job done.”

It was only Westwood’s second win in his six games at the tournament.
Fisher, in contrast, was a semi-finalist two years ago and later that season won golf’s other World Match Play tournament in Spain.

“It wasn’t flawless, awesome golf, but in match play you don’t have to play perfectly and Robert was a little bit off,” he said.

McIlroy chipped in for eagle at the 393-yard fourth and went on to beat American Jonathan Byrd 4&2, all the more satisfying because the Golf Channel had tipped him to lose.

“It obviously gives you a little extra to go out and prove them wrong,” said the 21-year-old. “I felt if I played my game I would be tough to beat.”
McIlroy meets another American, Ben Crane, in the second round.