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MARANA, ARIZONA // Tiger Woods is out of the WGC-Accenture Match Play already, beaten on the first extra hole by Thomas Bjorn, the Danish golfer in today's opening round.
With the longest barren spell of his career now stretching to 18 events, Woods joined Ian Poulter, the defending champion, in crashing out of the tournament in sudden death.
Despite some shocking shots — he hit almost into the middle of the lake on the short third — Woods led by one with six to play, but Bjorn then birdied the 13th and 15th.
The former world No 1, whose last victory was 15 months ago in Australia, levelled with a nine-foot birdie putt on the last, but could not recover from a wild drive when they went into overtime.
So Bjorn, only 134th on the rankings before he won the Qatar Masters earlier this month, claimed the scalp of the player whose only previous first-round loss was nine years ago to Australian Peter O'Malley.
"He's not playing his absolute best, but there were a lot of good swings there," said Bjorn. "He's taking strides. There's a way back for him and he'll get there."
Poulter lost to Stewart Cink, th 2009 British Open champion, and last year's runner-up Paul Casey breathed a huge sigh of relief that he did not exit as well.
Poulter, the 12th seed, was two up with six to go, while No 6 seed Casey, who has reached the last two finals in the event, survived only when Richard Green, the Australian left-hander, three-putted the 19th.
"I really should have shut the match out, to be honest with you," Poulter said.
"Every credit to him. He holed putts at the right time and that's what you have to do in this format. He putted me off the golf course. I missed my chances and therefore I have been punished."
Casey commented: "I just never got it going. I didn't birdie any par five — it really was pretty poor. I made a real botch of the 17th, but Richard kind of handed it to me on the 19th."
Casey joined fellow Englishmen Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Ross Fisher and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy in progressing, while Justin Rose was four up after 10 on Zach Johnson in the final game.
Surprised to be sent out in the very first match just before 8am — 30 minutes later than planned because of frost — Poulter's interest in the event had ended before Woods and top seed Westwood had even played a hole.
Donald was the first player into the last 32, thrashing Charley Hoffman, the US golfer, by a 6&5 margin, and he will next play his Ryder Cup teammate Edoardo Molinari.
Donald's victory threatened to be an even more convincing when he took seven of the first 10 holes.
"Charley was not on his A-game," he said. "I was probably three or four under and I'll take the win, but it was not too hard fortunately."
Molinari came from two down after six to beat Scot Martin Laird 3&2, but that was not the biggest turnaround. Ernie Els lost the first three holes to American Jeff Overton, but won on the 19th.
There is another all-European Ryder Cup clash in the second round, Celtic Manor hero McDowell against Fisher, while Westwood, who overcame Henrik Stenson, next plays American Nick Watney — the player who beat him last year.
Both won 4&3, McDowell against American Heath Slocum and Fisher against Australian Robert Allenby.
"It was reasonably straightforward," stated US Open champion McDowell, the fifth seed. "Heath didn't have his best day and for a change I played nicely and got the job done." It was only his second win in six games at the tournament.
Fisher, in contrast, was a semi-finalist two years ago and later that season won golf's other World Match Play tournament in Spain.
"It wasn't flawless, awesome golf, but in match play you don't have to play perfectly and Robert was a little bit off," he said.
McIlroy chipped in for eagle at the 393-yard fourth and went on to beat American Jonathan Byrd 4&2, all the more satisfying because the Golf Channel had tipped him to lose.
"It obviously gives you a little extra to go out and prove them wrong," said the 21-year-old. "I felt if I played my game I would be tough to beat."
McIlroy has another American, Ben Crane, in the second round.
After heading for an early finish Rose suddenly lost four holes in a row and so was back on level terms with Johnson with four to play.
But the Englishman responded with birdies at the 15th and 17th to eventually prevail 2&1 and set up a meeting with Martin Kaymer.
WGC-AccentureMatch Play Championship scores at the end of the first round
Lee Westwood (Britain) beat Henrik Stenson (Sweden) 3 & 2
Nick Watney (US) beat Anthony Kim (US) 5 & 4
KJ Choi (South Korea) beat Retief Goosen (South Africa) by 1 hole
Ryan Moore (US.) beat Francesco Molinari (Italy) 3 & 1
Matteo Manassero (Italy) beat Steve Stricker (US) 2 & 1
Charl Schwartzel (South Africa) beat Ryo Ishikawa (Japan) at hole 20
Luke Donald (Britain) beat Charley Hoffman (US) 6 & 5
Edoardo Molinari (Italy) beat Martin Laird (Britain) 3 & 2
Phil Mickelson (US) beat Brendan Jones (Australia) 6 & 5
Rickie Fowler (US) beat Peter Hanson (Sweden) by 1 hole
Matt Kuchar (US) beat Anders Hansen (Denmark) at hole 22
Bo Van Pelt (US) beat Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) 2 & 0
Graeme McDowell (Britain) beat Heath Slocum (US) 4 & 3
Ross Fisher (Britain) beat Robert Allenby (Australia) 4 & 3
Stewart Cink (US) beat Ian Poulter (Britain) at hole 19
Y.E. Yang (South Korea) beat Alvaro Quiros (Spain) at hole 20
Martin Kaymer (Germany) beat Noh Yul-seung (South Korea) 7 & 6
Justin Rose (Britain) beat Zach Johnson (US) 2 & 1
Robert Karlsson (Sweden) beat Hiroyuki Fujita (Japan) 5 & 3
Hunter Mahan (US) beat Sean O'Hair (U.S.) 4 & 3
Rory McIlroy (Britain) beat Jonathan Byrd (US) 4 & 2
Ben Crane (US) beat Adam Scott (Australia) 4 & 2
Ryan Palmer (US) beat Jim Furyk (US) 2 & 0
Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain) beat Yuta Ikeda (Japan) 2 & 1
Thomas Bjorn (Denmark) beat Tiger Woods (US) at hole 19
Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) beat Padraig Harrington (Ireland) 4 & 3
Mark Wilson (US) beat Dustin Johnson (US) at hole 19
Bubba Watson (US) beat Bill Haas (US) 3 & 2
Paul Casey (Britain) beat Richard Green (Australia) at hole 19
Jason Day (Australia) beat Kim Kyung-Tae (South Korea) 3 & 2
Ernie Els (South Africa) beat Jeff Overton (US) at hole 19
J.B. Holmes (US) beat Camilo Villegas (Colombia) 4 & 2