Thursday's golf: Tiger Woods down but not yet out at match play

By Doug Ferguson
Associated Press
Tiger Woods plays a shot from a bunker on the sixth hole during round-robin play Thursday at the Dell Match Play Championship golf tournament.

Austin, Texas — The magical escape by Tiger Woods didn’t keep him from losing Thursday in the Dell Technologies Match Play.

He just didn’t lose hope of playing on the weekend.

The same couldn’t be said for defending champion Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and a host of others who have to return this morning to Austin Country Club with no chance of advancing out of their group.

The Match Play began to take shape, more because of 20 players from the 64-man field mathematically eliminated than who can still reach the weekend.

Jordan Spieth is still alive after building a 6-up lead through 12 holes on Kevin Na, but not winning until four holes later when Na missed a 4-foot birdie putt. Jim Furyk and Henrik Stenson emerged with 2-0 records from the group of major champions. They play this after knocking out Mickelson and Jason Day.

“It’s going to be a tough one again,” Stenson said. “Jim, I don’t think he’s given away an easy bogey since 1994 or something.”

Brandt Snedeker took advantage of too many mistakes by Woods off the tee and on the greens for a 2-and-1 victory, a big one for Snedeker because of his opponent’s name and reputation. But it was just one win.

“I knew I was playing good, so I was excited about the opportunity,” he said. “I turned into Tiger’s biggest fan tomorrow going forward, because I need him to go out there and beat Patrick (Cantlay) tomorrow.”

Snedeker first has to beat Aaron Wise, who was eliminated when Cantlay beat him, and he would only advance if Woods beats Cantlay. Otherwise, Snedeker and Cantlay will return to the first tee for a sudden-death playoff.

Several groups are like that.

“See you on the first tee tomorrow,” Horschel said with a smile and a wink to Spieth.

Horschel and Spieth halved their match in the opening round, both won on Thursday, and if they win again — Spieth faces Watson, Horschel gets Na — they would be in a playoff to determine who reaches the knockout stage on the weekend.

Woods, back in the Match Play for the first time since 2013, has never been part of this round-robin format. All that mattered was trying to win his match, and he never led against Snedeker. He still provided one of the most remarkable halves on another action-packed day.

Woods was 1 down when hit his second shot under a bush on the 10th hole, leaving him little option but to take a penalty drop. Snedeker saw it and played his third shot conservatively to about 4 feet. In his mind, he was 2 up heading to the next tee.

Instead, Woods dropped to his right knee to play a left-handed shot, inverting the club and holding it parallel to the ground. He not only made contact, the ball bounced out to about 4 feet and he made the par putt. Snedeker had to make his putt to keep the match from being tied, which he did.

Three holes later, Woods hit iron off the tee and pulled it left into the Colorado River, making double bogey to fall 2 down. Snedeker seized control with a 10-foot birdie on the 16th, and closed him out on the next hole.

“I’m probably the most hated man in Texas right now,” Snedeker said. “I bet you my kids were probably rooting for him late in the round.”

It wasn’t a clean match by any stretch, but the windy, dry conditions made it tough on everyone.

“We both made a couple of mistakes out there, but he made a few less mistakes than I did,” Woods said. “All I can do is hopefully get a point tomorrow and see if that’s good enough.”

Dustin Johnson, the top seed for the third straight year, lost to Branden Grace when the South African poured in a big birdie putt on the 17th and Johnson couldn’t win the final hole. That leaves Johnson needing help to win his group.

Justin Thomas recovered from his opening loss to beat Matt Wallace. 

PGA Tour

Joel Dahmen birdied five of his last six holes Thursday for a 6-under 66 and a share of the first-round lead in the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Dahmen rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 third with four straight birdies and closed with another birdie on the par-3 ninth. Winless on the PGA Tour, Dahmen, a 31-year-old former University of Washington player, was tied with Matt Jones and Paul Dunne.

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had a 79. Playing as an amateur, the CBS analyst bogeyed three of the first four holes and had a triple bogey on the par-4 eighth. He also bogeyed the par-4 13th, failing to make a birdie in the round.

“I think it’s somewhat nerves early on,” Romo said. 

“Missed a few short putts that you feel you normally make and then just a bad swing on 8 that cost me a triple bogey. Hard to make birdies out here, just the wind.”

Romo was tied for 128th, ahead of only two players. He missed the cut and finished last a year ago.

“I think you want to really compete with yourself, see how good you can get,” Romo said. 

“I play with a lot of these guys, you see how talented they are and how good.

“The thing that stands out is the consistency, the ability to do it over and over again. In this game one or two swings costs you a day. 

“Today, that was a little bit of my day.”