MARANA, Ariz. — The snow is gone from the Match Play Championship, and so are Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
In a stunning conclusion to what is a bizarre week on Dove Mountain, Shane Lowry of Ireland made a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole to eliminate Rory McIlroy in the opening round Thursday of golf’s most unpredictable tournament.
“It’s definitely a day I’m going to remember,” said Lowry, the third player in the past four years to beat the No. 1 seed in the opening round.
Moments later, Charles Howell III finished off a fabulous round in cold conditions by defeating Woods on the 17th hole. Howell, who had not faced Woods in match play since losing to him in the third round of the 1996 U.S. Amateur, played bogey-free on a course that had patches of snow and ice after being cleared Thursday morning.
The match was all square when Howell hit a wedge that stopped inches from the cup on the 15th hole for a conceded birdie. Then, he holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th and went 2 up when Woods badly missed a 12-foot birdie putt.
“I had nothing to lose,” said Howell, who started the year outside the top 100 in the world and hasn’t qualified for this World Golf Championship in five years. “In this format, match play is crazy. He’s Tiger Woods. I was lucky to hang in there.”
The final matches were played in near darkness, and they could have stopped after 15 holes. Woods wanted to play on, even though Howell had the momentum. Woods was 2 under for the day, and neither of them made a bogey.
Anderson shares lead
At Panama City, Panama, former USC golfer Mark Anderson and Andrew Loupe used early tee times to beat the heat and the wind to fire 6-under 64s and share the first-round lead at the Panama Claro Championship, the first stop on the Web.com Tour.
Lewis shoots 63 in Thailand
At Chonburi, Thailand, Stacy Lewis shot a 9-under 63 in the first round to take a three-stroke lead at the LPGA Thailand. The American had an eagle on the par-4 third hole and added four more birdies on the front nine at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.