MARANA, Ariz. - One minute he looked like the Tiger Woods of old, burying a clutch birdie putt when he was down to his last shot.
One swing later, Woods looked lost in the desert.
With the pressure at a peak, Woods hit a 3-wood into a desert bush on the first extra hole Wednesday and was eliminated in the first round of the Match Play Championship by Thomas Bjorn.
“I blew it,” Woods said.
When his 18-foot bogey putt rolled past the cup, Woods removed his cap and conceded the match to Bjorn, a longtime friend who qualified for this World Golf Championship by winning last month in Qatar. Bjorn held their handshake and spoke to Woods, who listened intently and appeared shaken.
“That’s between me and Tiger,” Bjorn said when asked about their conversation. “But what I will say is that the game of golf needs him back at his best. And I’ve always been a great friend of his, and we’ve always had a good relationship. And I want to see him back at his best because I think it’s much more fun to go up against him when he’s absolutely at his peak. And so it was things down that line.”
Woods clearly isn’t at his best at the moment.
“It’s easy to put the ball in the fairway and I couldn’t even do that,” Woods said, so visibly upset that he was stumbling over his words.
In three tournaments this year, he has failed to crack the top 20.
The other top seeds didn’t have that much trouble.
Top-ranked Lee Westwood never trailed in his 3-and-2 victory over Henrik Stenson, while PGA champion Martin Kaymer had the shortest match of the day, a 7-and-6 win over 19-year-old Seung-yul Noh of South Korea.
Phil Mickelson, the No. 4 seed who only decided to play this World Golf Championship two weeks ago, won 6-and-5 over Brendan Jones.
Still, Woods had some company in going home early.
The Americans had four of the top 10 seeds at Dove Mountain, and Mickelson is the only one left. Matteo Manassero, the 17-year-old Italian, became the youngest winner in this tournament with a 2-and-1 victory over eighth-seeded Steve Stricker, while Jim Furyk (No. 10) continued his struggles in losing to Ryan Palmer, who was making his Match Play debut.
The wild first day finally ended with a record eight matches going into extra holes, and four others going the distance. Of the 32 players remaining, 13 are Americans, 13 are Europeans and two each are from Australia, South Africa and Asia.