Woods survives rash of up­sets in open­ing round of Match Play

Thomas, Wat­son fall on first day

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS -

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).

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