Woods survives rash of upsets in opening round of Match Play
Thomas, Watson fall on first day
Tiger Woods took advantage of the uneven play by the youngest competitor in the field to win his opening match Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas.
Playing in his first match-play event since 2013, Woods beat 22-yearold Aaron Wise in a match that featured few stellar shots but plenty of momentum swings. Woods build a 2-up lead after two holes but was unable to keep his foot on the gas and found himself trailing by a hole after the 10th.
With neither player executing consistently, Woods was able to get back to all-square with a par on the next hole. He then won three of the next six to close out his record-extending 64th match-play event 3 and 1. That keeps him in control of his own destiny in the round-robin format, but Woods knows he’ll have to play better over the next two days to advance out of Group 13.
“I’ve played a lot of matches over the years, and this is definitely one of the most emotional matches,” Woods told the Golf Channel after securing his win when Wise three-putted the 17th hole. “I was up early, then I’m down, then I’m up. There was just a lot of ebb and flow to this match. It wasn’t as though we were both playing great golf, but somehow I came out with the win.”
While Wise will need to win his final two matches and get some help in order to advance, Woods is still in the driver’s seat. He received another gift when Brandt Snedeker birdied the 18th hole to halve the other Group 13 match against Patrick Cantlay.
“We weren’t playing that great today, we were both struggling a little bit,” Woods acknowledged. “If it was a stroke-play event, we’d be pretty far behind. But in stroke play, it’s beating the guy in front of you, and that was about it, and I was able to advance.”
Several other favored players would have loved to have squeaked out a win with less than their “A” games Wednesday.
No. 5 seed Justin Thomas was a 3-and-2 loser to Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard (No. 50), No. 9 Xander Schauffele escaped No. 62 Lee Westwood 1 up, No. 52 Jim Furyk came from behind to upset Australia’s Jason Day (No. 12) 2 up, and defending champ Bubba Watson lost to No. 57 Kevin Na.
Coming off his victory at The Players two weeks ago, fourth-seeded Rory McIlroy closed out American Luke List (64) 5 and 4. Spain’s Jon Rahm, the No. 2 seed, was even more convincing in his 7-and-5 win over South Korea’s Si Woo Kim (54).