Tiger Woods stood nearly 33 feet 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 same moment, Rory McIlroy, feet entrenched in a greenside bunker on the 18th, was 47 feet 8 inches from elimination.

Woods missed his putt by 4 feet, and McIlroy missed his chip by just 3 inches.

And just like that, the world's two best golfers were dismissed from the 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: "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. The pair entered the 15th hole all square, but Howell 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.

"I kept waiting for that Tiger moment, and it never came," Howell 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 and competitors.

Howell never remembers beating Woods.

"Listen, I had nothing to lose coming into this match," Howell said. "Every time Tiger Woods tees it up, he's a marked man, and he's got the bull's-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 bull's-eye on his back.

Lowry took advantage of that.

The 25-year-old Irishman, ranked 68th in the world, grabbed the lead from McIlroy after winning the 12th hole and never looked back. He eagled the 13th, changing momentum in the match and, after losing the 16th, halved 17 and 18 to beat McIlroy.

"It would have been nice to get through and just get another day here and another competitive round under my belt," McIlroy said. "I'm obviously disappointed I didn't get to play a little more golf this week, but I'll practice over the weekend."

It's the fourth time in Match Play history that the top overall seed has lost in the first round. It's the second time in as many years; Luke Donald was bounced in the opening round last year.

McIlroy "obviously felt the pressure," Lowry said. "He did hit a few ropey shots today coming in. But, everyone hits bad shots at the end of the day. He's only human. There's not much more I can say about that."

Woods also showed that he's still very human.

"It's just the way it goes," Woods said.

"I've seen matches won where a guy shoots 7-under par, and he's going home. It's the nature of the format. You've just got to beat the guy you're playing against, and I didn't do that today.

"Chucky won the match."

On StarNet: See more photos from Dove Mountain at azstarnet.com/gallery


• What: First and second rounds

• Where: The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Marana

• Matches start: 9:30 a.m.

• TV: 11 a.m. on Golf Channel

• Tickets: Buy at Bashas', call 520-571-0400 or go to worldgolfchampionships.com

More inside

• Results and tee times

• Seen & heard at Dove Mountain

• Lowry upsets fellow Irishman

Pages B8-B10

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.