McIlroy, Woods bow out early in Arizona


Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both fell at the first hurdle as the snow-affected Accenture Match Play Championship finally got under way in earnest in Arizona.

Woods, beaten 2&1 by fellow American Charles Howell in a first round still to be completed following Wednesday’s snow, has the comfort of knowing he has already won a title this year.

But world number one McIlroy, who lost on the final green to 68th-ranked fellow Irishman Shane Lowry, will know there are more questions coming after what has to go down as a shocking start to the season.

The 23-year-old began it last month by missing the halfway cut in Abu Dhabi in the very week he signed a multi-million pound contract to use Nike clubs.

He shot two rounds of 75 there and exited last night after an approximate four-over-par 76. Next week he defends the Honda Classic in Florida.

“I drove really well, but couldn’t take advantage of that,” he said. “If I’d hit my irons better it could have been a different story.

“I could have been three or four up early on, but let him get back into the match and he had a nice little run.”

Lowry, meanwhile said: “My knees were knocking over that final (three-foot) putt. I was very nervous going out and quite mad at myself for that, but I had a bit of luck that I needed and said to my caddie that he’s not going to be liking this at all.”

McIlroy becomes the third top seed in the last four years to go out straightaway. Steve Stricker lost to Ross McGowan in 2010 and last year it was Luke Donald to Ernie Els.

Donald, seeded third this time, was relieved to be still in the event today, a birdie on the last needed to see off the challenge of German Marcel Siem.

Lee Westwood did go out, though, losing on the first extra hole to Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello, while in the other all-Irish clash Graeme McDowell defeated Padraig Harrington one-up.

There were wins too for Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, but all three Scots in the field went out.

Dubai Desert Classic winner Stephen Gallacher lost 2&1 to 2010 winner Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie found American Scott Piercy too hot to handle and lost 4&3, then Richie Ramsay could not hold onto a two-hole after 11 playing fourth seed Louis Oosthuizen. The South African won on the 17th.

Jamie Donaldson, the only Welsh representative, was going home too. He lost 3&2 to Thorbjorn Olesen, the Dane he pushed into second place in Abu Dhabi last month.

English duo Chris Wood and David Lynn were hoping to pull off upsets against Masters champion Bubba Watson and US Open champion Webb Simpson, but it was not to be. The Americans won 2&1 and 5&4 respectively.

Lowry and Howell went to bed not knowing who they will be playing next.

Francesco Molinari and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano were all square with two to play when it became too dark to continue – the winner faces Howell – while Carl Pettersson leads Rickie Fowler by one on the final tee.