Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sports

Donald falters; Woods survives

MARANA, Ariz. — Luke Donald, so dominant in winning the Match Play Champion­ship last year that he closed out every match before the 18th hole, became only the third No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round, faltering Wednesday on crazy day on Dove Mountain.

Ernie Els, who only got into the 64-man field when Phil Mickelson took his family on a ski vacation, delivered the shocker with a 5-and-4 victory.

"I don't think it would have mattered who I played today. I just didn't play well," Donald said. "I gave away too many holes and made too many mistakes. You can't do that in match play against anyone, let alone Ernie."

Tiger Woods nearly found that out against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

Woods had to play a left-handed shot in one of his three journeys into the desert. He trailed the Spaniard with four holes to play, and both of them looked beatable. That changed when Woods drove the par-4 15th green to win with a two-putt birdie, won the 16th with a par and then closed it out with an 8-foot par putt for a 1-up win.

"We both made our share of mistakes, there's no doubt about that," Woods said. "But somehow, I was able to move on."

That was the only objective in this single-elimination format in which the only proper use of the word "upset" is the mood of the 32 guys who are headed home.

Among them:

• Ian Poulter, the Match Play winner two years ago, suffered his worst loss in nine appearances when Bae Sang-moon beat him, 4 and 3.

• Bill Haas, coming off his monster win at Riviera just three days ago, looked like a winner when he was 1 up on the 17th green and had a 5-foot birdie putt. Ryo Ishikawa holed from 18 feet, Haas missed, and the Japanese star made par on the 18th to win.

• Jim Furyk was on the verge of sending Dustin Johnson home early for the fourth straight year when Johnson hit his tee shot into the desert and had to take a penalty drop on the 20th hole. Furyk chipped across the green and three-putted for bogey to lose.

• Rafael Cabrera-Bello was 3 up with three holes to play against Jason Day when he bogeyed three straight holes, and Day beat him with a 4-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole.

The other top seeds didn't have too many problems, although U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy had a nervous moment.

He won four straight holes on the back nine to seize control against George Coetzee and was 3 up with three to play when McIlroy lost the next two holes with bogeys, then popped up a tee shot and made par a challenge. Coetzee, however, blew his approach 60 feet long on the 18th and three-putted for bogey, giving McIlroy a 2-up victory.

Lee Westwood never trailed in a 3-and-1 win over Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium.

McIlroy and Westwood now have a chance to replace Donald at No. 1 if either wins.

Fernandez-Castano said this week that Woods was "beatable" and not at his best. "He's beatable, too," Woods replied.

"I think if there was one day to beat Tiger Woods, this was it," Fernandez-Castano said. "I didn't take the opportunity. I missed a few shots. And of course, you can't miss spots if you want to beat one of the greatest in history."

Fedex renews sponsorship: The PGA Tour will keep the FedEx Cup for at least five more years with FedEx extending its umbrella sponsorship through 2017. Financial details were not revealed. That's the final piece of sponsorship renewal that the tour navigated through a tough economy.

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