Washington, United States (AFP) – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson were among the top seeds and past champions to capture opening group stage matches Wednesday at the WGC Match-Play Championship.
The 64-player showdown at Austin Country Club uses a round-robin format to determine 16 players for a weekend knockout event to decide a champion, although it’s a format untested until this year by Woods, who qualified for the first time since 2013.
The 14-time major champion opened solidly but unspectacularly with a 3&1 victory over US 61st seed Aaron Wise, leaving 13th seed Woods atop his all-American group after Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Cantlay halved.
“We were both struggling a little bit,” Woods said. “It was just trying to beat the guy in front of you and I was able to advance.”
Woods, who won the event in 2003, 2004 and 2008, fell 1-down when Wise birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes. But Wise made bogeys at 13, 15 and 17 to hand Woods the win.
Fourth seed McIlroy, the 2015 WGC Match-Play winner coming off a Players Championship victory two weeks ago, downed US 64th and last seed Luke List 5&4.
McIlroy never trailed and never lost a hole and closed with back-to-back seven-foot birdie putts at 13 and 14 to secure the triumph.
US top seed Johnson, the 2017 winner who captured last month’s WGC Mexico event, opened with a 4&3 win over US 55th seed Chez Reavie.
England’s second-seeded Justin Rose downed Argentine 53rd seed Emiliano Grillo 2&1.