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Woods, McIlroy first-round casualties in Match Play Championship

Associated Press The snow is gone from the Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz., and so are Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. In a stunning conclusion to what already 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 last 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 still 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. “We both played well,” Woods said. “He made a couple of more birdies than I did. He played well, and he’s advancing.” McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world, built a 2-up lead early in the match until Lowry rallied and grabbed the moment by chipping in for birdie on the par-3 12th and then ripping a fairway metal to within a few feet for a conceded eagle on the 13th. Lowry missed a short par putt on the 14th, only for McIlroy to give away the next hole with a tee shot into the desert and a bunker shot that flew over the 15th green and into a cactus. But the two-time major champion hung tough, coming up with a clutch birdie on the 16th to stay in the game. McIlroy nearly holed his bunker on the 18th, and Lowry followed with a steady shot out to 4 feet and calmly sank the putt. Louis Oosthuizen, the No. 4 seed, rallied to get past Richie Ramsay of Scotland. Howell and Lowry will have to wait until today to find out their opponents. Carl Pettersson was 1-up on Rickie Fowler through 17 holes when they stopped because of darkness. The winner gets Lowry, who will be fighting some history. Of the previous three players to beat the No. 1 seed in the opening round, all of them lost in the second round. Howell gets either Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano or Francesco Molinari, who were all square through 15 holes. Ernie Els lost in the opening round for the sixth time. He missed a 3-foot par putt on the 16th hole that would have given him the lead, and he missed a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole to lose to Fredrik Jacobson.

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