Defender Donald out
Els pulls off upset; Woods survives, 1 up
MARANA, Ariz. - Tiger Woods had to play a lefthanded shot out of the desert. Retief Goosen holed out from 156 yards and didn’t even win the hole. Dustin Johnson twice won a hole after taking a penalty drop.
But the strangest sight of all yesterday at the Match Play Championship didn’t come from the golf course.
It was Luke Donald on his way to the airport.
“Golf is like that sometimes,’’ Donald said after his 5-and-4 loss to Ernie Els, becoming only the third No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round. “It’s a fickle game, and sometimes it bites you.’’
It almost took a bite out of Woods, who had to rally to beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano; and US Open champion Rory McIlroy, the No. 2 seed who was 3 up with three holes to play and was sweating on the 18th until George Coetzee missed a short putt for par.
Donald was so dominant last year in winning the Match Play Championship that he closed out all six of his matches before they reached the 18th hole. He won’t be playing the closing hole at Dove Mountain this year, either.
Els, who only got into the 64-man field when Phil Mickelson took his family on a ski vacation, delivered the biggest shocker in the first round by taking the lead for good on the eighth hole and putting the world’s No. 1 player in a hole from which he couldn’t recover.
Donald lost in the opening round for the first time in eight appearances in this World Golf Championship.
Woods trailed Fernandez-Castano with four holes to play, and both of them looked beatable. That changed when Woods drove the par-4 15th green to win with a two-putt birdie, won the 16th with a par, and then closed out the Spaniard with an 8-foot par putt for a 1-up win.
“We both made our share of mistakes, there’s no doubt about that,’’ said Woods. “But somehow, I was able to move on.’’
Ian Poulter, the Match Play winner two years ago, suffered his worst loss in nine appearances when Bae Sang-moon beat him, 4 and 3.
Bill Haas, coming off that monster win at Riviera just three days before, looked like a winner when he was 1 up on the 17th green and had a 5-foot birdie putt. Ryo Ishikawa holed from 18 feet, Haas missed, and the Japanese star made par on the 18th to win.
Jim Furyk was on the verge of sending Johnson home early for the fourth straight year when Johnson hit his tee shot into the desert and had to take a penalty drop on the 20th hole. Furyk chipped across the green and three-putted for bogey to lose.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello was 3 up with three holes to play against Jason Day when he bogeyed three straight holes, and Day beat him with a 4-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole.
Lee Westwood never trailed in his 3-and-1 win over Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium. Martin Kaymer easily dispatched Greg Chalmers, while Steve Stricker outlasted Kevin Na.