Tiger Woods stood nearly 33 feet away from the hole on the 17th green, needing to hole out to extend his stay at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
At nearly the exact same moment, Rory McIlroy, feet entrenched in a greenside bunker on the 18th, was 47 feet, eight inches away from elimination.
Woods missed his putt by four feet and McIlroy missed his chip by just three inches.
And just like that, the world’s two best golfers were dismissed from today's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in the first round. Woods fell to Charles Howell III 2 and 1. Shane Lowry topped McIlroy 1 up.
“I played well, I really did,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there. I didn’t make a bogey. Unfortunately it’s the nature of the format and I’m not advancing.”
Added McIlroy, the world’s No. 1: “Match play is a bit of a-it’s not a lottery, the best guy usually wins, but if it’s over 36 holes or something, it’s more of an even sort of keel. I would have been 1 down after 18 and had a great chance. But that’s 18-hole match play; you have to get off to a fast start and you have to play well to win.”
In a day where nothing was normal on Dove Mountain, the finale was fitting.
Play was supposed to begin at 8:30 a.m., but the previous night’s snow still lined every fairway on the course. The start was first delayed until 10:30. And then 11:30, and then, well you get the picture.
Play didn’t start until 1 p.m., after five delays and didn’t close until 6:15. In that five-plus hour window, McIlroy and Woods couldn’t solve the riddle of match play.
Woods played bogey-free golf, but fell to Howell III. The pair entered the 15th hole all squared, but Howell III registered back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to take a two-shot lead into 17.
The 33-year-old underdog from Augusta, Ga., then gave Woods the option of calling the match and finishing today or playing 17 right then. Woods opted to keep playing and they both parred the hole, giving the match to Howell III.
“I kept waiting for that Tiger moment and it never came,” Howell III said. “As far as beating Tiger Woods goes, it shows you that match play is crazy.
“I did have to play a good round, but, yeah, it’s a bit hard to believe sitting here today.”
The two have a long history and have played each other in match play before, both as friends as competitors. Howell III never remembers beating Woods.
“Listen, I had nothing to lose coming into this match,” Howell III said. “Every time Tiger Woods tees it up, he’s a marked man and he’s got the bulls eye on his back. Before today, I don’t think I’ve ever beat the guy while we were playing in the same group.”
McIlroy, while relatively new to it, is also a marked man with a bulls eye on his back.
Lowry took advantage of that.
Read more about Match Play in Friday's Arizona Daily Star.