Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Bad putting again is Woods' enemy

MARANA, Ariz. — Tiger Woods had a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to extend the match, and Nick Watney already was thinking about how to play the next hole. He had his yardage book out, trying to decide whether 3-wood was the right club to hit off the first tee.

"The old adage is to expect your opponent to make it," Watney said. "And when it's Tiger Woods, you really expect him to make it."

But in what is becoming a troubling trend for Woods, he missed the birdie putt so badly that it never touched the hole, giving Watney a 1-up victory Thursday in the World Golf Championship's Match Play Championship.

It was the third straight time Woods, a three-time champion in this event, failed to get out of the second round.

"I didn't miss a single shot coming in, which is good. And that was fun, to hit the ball that well," Woods said. "Unfortunately, I just didn't make a putt when I needed it.

"I was fighting the blocks all day with my putter," said Woods, who missed three putts inside 10 feet on the last six holes. "Left-to-right putt, I took it slightly right there, and I knew it — and blocked it open."

Two weeks ago, Woods couldn't buy a putt at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and closed with 75. Last month he also struggled to make putts in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, when he failed to win despite being tied for the 54-hole lead with Robert Rock.

"I'm very happy to move on," Watney said. "I feel a bit fortunate, as well. We don't see (Woods) miss putts like that very often. And there were a few of them."

In the round of 16, Watney plays Lee Westwood, who had no trouble against Robert Karlsson, advancing to the third round for the first time in 12 tries at this event.

"Need more clothes. Didn't pack for long enough!" Westwood posted on Twitter.

In other matches:

• U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, the No. 2 seed, made only three birdies but won two straight holes with par to put away Anders Hansen. He plays Miguel Angel Jimenez, who beat PGA champion Keegan Bradley.

• Dustin Johnson, headed for defeat in the opening round until outlasting Jim Furyk in 20 holes, blasted Francesco Molinari early and rolled to a 7-and-5 win. "I was definitely in a better mood," Johnson said of the short day. Next up for him is Mark Wilson, who breezed to a win over Rock.

• Steve Stricker celebrated his 45th birthday in style. Two down on the back nine, he rallied to catch Louis Oosthuizen, then won the match with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that had so much break even Stricker wasn't sure he could make it. He plays Hunter Mahan, who never trailed in beating Y.E. Yang.

• Ernie Els, one day after becoming the third No. 64 seed to win, had another short day, but this one preceded a long flight home. He lost 5 and 4 to Peter Hanson.

• The surprise was that Scotland had two players remaining: 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie took down Ryo Ishikawa, and Martin Laird defeated Matteo Manassero. Lawrie and Laird face each other in the third round.

pga: Will Claxton shot 4-under 66 in windy conditions to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Charles Howell led a group of seven tied for second.

LPGA: Angela Stanford shot 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. Na Yeon Choi led a group of five tied for second. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson was at 3 under and Seminole's Brittany Lincicome at 1 under.

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