Tiger Woods — Getty ImagesThe hope for a match play golf tournament is that the two biggest names make it to the finals and the ratings jump out of control. The reality is what happened on Thursday at Dove Mountain, where Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the two biggest names in the sport, lost their first round matches as No. 1 seeds.
Woods went down to Charles Howell III, a friend of his who told The Golf Channel before this week that he had never beaten Tiger in any heads-up match, televised or otherwise, and was coming in a mighty underdog to Tiger, who has won this event three times in his career. McIlroy also lost to a friend in Shane Lowry, a guy with just one European Tour win as a professional and what seemed like a slim chance at actually winning this match against the No. 1 overall seed who made the finals a season ago.
But you simply can't take away what the two underdogs did on Thursday. Howell made some seriously clutch birdie putts on Nos. 15 and 16 to give him a 2-up lead and continued to pepper the flags on 17, forcing Woods to try and pull off a miracle on one of the tougher holes at Dove Mountain.
McIlroy, for whatever reason, can't seem to find a rhythm this season and it is definitely more than just a club change. Next week he will get a chance to defend his title at the Honda Classic, but for now the Accenture Match Play is left without golf's two biggest names. With some other top names bowing out in the first round, it is truly anyone's event to win with five rounds left to play.
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