The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Tex.–Six years later, the Dell Technologies Match Play was all too familiar for Tiger Woods.
He was on the cusp of losing his fourth-straight hole yesterday when Woods poured in a 10-foot par putt while Aaron Wise three-putted from 30 feet.
Just like that, momentum swung in his favour. Woods won three of the next six holes to take his opening match 3-and-1.
The round-robin format is new to Woods, who last played this event in 2013.
He also had never been to Austin Country Club.
What doesn’t change is the fickle nature of match play.
“I was up, the next thing I’m down in the match,” Woods noted. “Looked like I was about ready to go 2-down through 11.
“All of a sudden, I’m all square,” he added. “[Then] I’m up and throw away a hole with a three-putt.
“It’s one of those weird matches.”
And it was like that all over the place in the opening session of group play.
Jim Furyk, who only two weeks ago never imagined he would be in the 64-man field, was 3-down to Jason Day when he won three-straight holes around the turn, and ultimately the last two holes to win.
Ian Poulter was on his way to atoning for his 8-and-6 quarter-final loss last year to Kevin Kisner until he watched Kisner jar a wedge from 58 yards for eagle–forcing Poulter to birdie the last two holes to win.
“I wasn’t going to roll over like last year,” he stressed.
Jordan Spieth birdied his last two holes for a halve against Billy Horschel, which felt bigger than that the way his year has gone so far.
“Feels like a win to me,” Spieth said. “If I were on his side of things, that’s kind of a tough go.”
Woods is a three-time winner of the World Golf Championship and has experienced enough to realize that scores don’t matter as long he wins.
“The way we were playing today, we’re very thankful it’s not stroke play,” he laughed.
Some players had far easier. Jon Rahm had the shortest match, beating Siwoo Kim 7-and-5.
Rory McIlroy needed only 14 holes to beat Luke List while top seed Dustin Johnson closed out Chez Reavie on the 15th hole.
Defending champ Bubba Watson lost his opening match for the first time since he began playing this event in 2011.
Watson needed to win the 18th against Kevin Na but his second shot out of the bunker in front of the green came back down the slope and into his footprint.
His next shot, far more difficult, started to come down the hill when he jogged over and picked it up to concede the match.
In the group of major champions, Henrik Stenson got the same result against Phil Mickelson as he did at Royal Troon when he won the 2016 British Open.
He won on the 17th hole when Mickelson’s tee shot went over the green, off the rocks, and into a hazard.
Justin Harding of South Africa, just inside the top 50 and in danger of being passed, was 2-down with three to play against Matt Fitzpatrick when he won the last three holes–two of them with pars–to take the match.
The highest seed to lose was Justin Thomas at No. 5. He fell behind to Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark, who never gave him much of a chance to get back in the match.
It ended on the 16th, when Thomas hit what he thought was a perfect wedge–only to see it carom off the flag stick and into the rough.