Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods knocked out in the first round of the Match Play Championship? Not many would have given that a snowball’s chance in the desert.
Almost as surprising as the freakish snowstorm on Dove Mountain — which delayed most of the first round until Thursday — was the sight of golf’s two biggest stars heading to the airport, only the second time in the 15-year history of this wild tournament that No. 1 and No. 2 didn’t last more than a day.
Davis High graduate Nick Watney, meanwhile, advanced to the second round with a 5 and 4 win over David Toms in the Sam Snead Bracket. The fifth-seeded former Blue Devil clinched the match with a run of three straight birdies on holes 11-14.
Watney’s victory sets up a second-round match with Steve Stricker, the bracket’s fourth seed.
In the Bobby Jones Bracket, Shane Lowry of Ireland chipped in twice and drilled a fairway metal to three feet to seize control, and then knocked out McIlroy with a bunker shot to four feet to save par on the final hole.
Just as the shock was wearing off, Charles Howell III came up with kind of shots he’s used to seeing Woods make in the clutch — a wedge that stopped inches from the cup on the 15th hole, and a 25-foot birdie on the 16th that carried him to a 2-and-1 victory in the Gary Player Bracket.