Tiger Woods failed for the third straight time to get past the second round of golf’s World Match Play Championship with a final-green defeat by fellow American Nick Watney.
Woods missed a six-foot (1.8-meter) birdie chance at the 18th hole on the Dove Mountain course at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Marana, Arizona, that would have sent the match into extra holes.
“That was a little bit of a shocker,” Woods told reporters after the one-hole defeat. “I didn’t miss a single shot coming in, which is good, and that was fun to hit the ball that well. Unfortunately, I just didn’t make a putt when I needed it.”
Woods lost in the first round to Thomas Bjorn last year. He skipped the tournament in 2010 during a self-imposed hiatus from the sport as he dealt with the repercussions of a sex scandal, and was beaten by Tim Clark in the second round in 2009. The year before, he won the event for a third time.
Watney today plays England’s former world No. 1 Lee Westwood, who he eliminated the past two years at the tournament, for a place in the quarterfinals.
Also in that quarter of the draw, Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird, both from Scotland, will vie for a place in the final eight.
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Watney won the first hole yesterday and Woods tied it at the next before moving ahead at the fourth. It was all square again after seven and it stayed that way until Watney took the lead for good at No. 10 and doubled his advantage two holes later.
Woods won the par-3 16th with a par after Watney sent his tee shot into the desert scrub.
Woods then missed a birdie putt from about 27 feet at No. 17 before Watney narrowly missed with a chip for birdie from the back edge of the green that would have ended the match.
Both players found the fairway from the tee at the 18th hole. Watney missed the green with his second shot before Woods dropped his approach about six feet from the cup. Watney’s chip slid by the hole and Woods slid his ball past the right edge of the cup as the crowd fell silent.
“Tiger makes those,” Watney said. “I feel fortunate but, at the same time, I’m very excited to move on. But yes, I’m definitely in a little bit of shock.”
Woods avoided a second straight first-round exit in the tournament when he beat Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano on the last green two days ago.
Woods, who also won the world match play title in 2003 and 2004, is still chasing his first win on the U.S. PGA Tour since September 2009.
In December, he ended a 749-day winless streak at the Chevron World Challenge, an 18-player invitational tournament that he hosts, and this year has finished third at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and tied for 15th at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Match play involves head-to-head competition over 18 holes, each one decided by the low score. The match is decided when one player has an insurmountable lead. In stroke-play events, which make up most of the world’s pro golf tours, the player with the lowest score wins the tournament.
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