The opening round was halted Wednesday after 3½ hours because of a freak snowstorm that covered Dove Mountain with nearly 2 inches. It continued to snow at times overnight, and it took nearly five hours to clear snow from the golf course for the tournament to resume.
Turns out, snow wasn't the only surprise.
"I had to play extremely well to have a chance, and I still kept waiting for that Tiger moment," Howell said.
It never came.
Woods missed short birdie chances at the 10th and 11th, but the real damage came on the 15th when he went long of the green with a wedge in hand. Howell also missed a pair of short putts on the back nine, but he came up big with the putt on the 16th.
"Really, I didn't even realize I was 2 up with two to go until I got right to the tee on 17, and it actually threw me for a bit because I never maybe was really in the moment and didn't quite realize how things were," Howell said. "And as far as beating Tiger Woods, 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 I'm sitting here today."
Howell and Lowry will have to wait until Friday to find out their opponents.
Carl Pettersson was 1 up on Rickie Fowler through 17 holes when they stopped because of darkness. The winner gets Lowry, who will be fighting some history. Of the previous three players to beat the No. 1 seed in the opening round, all of them lost in the second round.
Howell gets either Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano or Francesco Molinari, who were all square through 15 holes.
In other matches:
— Ernie Els lost in the opening round for the sixth time. He missed a 3-foot par putt on the 16th hole that would have given him the lead, and he missed a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole to lose to Fredrik Jacobson.
— Russell Henley, two months into his rookie season, defeated the hottest player in the field when he took down Charl Schwartzel, who had won twice and finished no worse than fifth in his last six tournaments worldwide.
— Rafael Cabrera Bello beat Lee Westwood in 19 holes after Westwood missed a 6-foot par putt on the last hole.
The opening round of the Match Play is typically the best day in golf. This one took two days, and it was unlike any other.
Nearly 2 inches of snow covered Dove Mountain on Wednesday, and with more snow overnight, nothing had changed when players began arriving Thursday morning. There already was a two-hour delay when they arrived.
"There was a guy building a snowman this morning at 8, and they said they were going off at 10:30," Henley said. "I figured it was going to be awhile"
No one had an easier day than Bo Van Pelt.
Having won six straight holes to go 5 up before snow suspended play on Wednesday, Van Pelt finally got back on the golf course and struck all of two shots — an 8-iron and a 45-foot putt. He won the 13th hole with a par to complete a 6-and-5 win over John Senden of Australia.
And then there was Sergio Garcia. He was one putt away from winning when play stopped Wednesday. He three-putted from 12 feet to lose the hole, and on the 18th hole, Thongchai Jaidee made a 6-foot birdie to send the match into overtime.
On the first extra hole, Garcia removed his cap and was putting his golf ball and tees in the bag as Jaidee settled over a 10-foot birdie. The putt ran around the back edge of the cup, giving Garcia life. He made birdie on the par-5 second hole to win in 20 holes.
So instead of hitting one shot Thursday, he had to play 19 of them. Garcia's was the first match of the tournament. It took him about 30 hours to finish.
"It's weirdness, I guess," Garcia said. "I guess at the end of the day, I was pleased to get through."
That's one thing McIlroy and Woods can't say.
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