Tiger Woods fought a balky putter all day on Thursday and came up just short in the second round of the $8.5 million WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. He missed a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole and fell to Nick Watney, 1 down.
"I hit it well all day," a disappointed Woods said afterward. "I didn't make any putts today and, subsequently, I didn't win the match."
Even in Wednesday's tough first-round victory against Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño of Spain, Woods never felt comfortable on the greens.
He had trouble reading breaks, and it ultimately cost him a chance to challenge for a fourth match-play title.
Watney won the par-5 first hole with a birdie, but Woods came right back with a birdie at the par-5 second to even the match. After halving the third hole with a par, Woods took his first and only lead of the match with a birdie at the par-5 fourth.
The next two holes were halved with pars, but Watney won the par-4 seventh with a par when Woods missed from five feet, squaring the match. The eighth and ninth holes were tied with pars, and the match was even at the turn.
On the par-4 10th hole, Woods drove into the left fairway bunker and was forced to employ an awkward stance. His second shot finished well right of the fairway, between jumping cholla and cactus, requiring him to turn his club over and hit left-handed for the second straight day. Woods eventually conceded the hole to Watney and fell to 1 down.
After halving the 11th hole with pars, Watney took a 2-up advantage at the par-3 12th by rolling in an 18-foot birdie putt. The next three holes were tied with pars, Woods twice failing to convert good birdie opportunities. He missed from just inside 10 feet at No. 13 and from six feet at No. 14.
Tiger finally cut into the lead at the par-3 16th, where Watney pushed his tee shot over corporate tents and was unable to save par. The 17th hole was halved with pars, forcing Tiger to win the par-4 18th hole to extend the match.
After a nice drive, Woods hit a beautiful approach shot just left of the cup, but his match-tying birdie putt missed right.
"I was fighting the blocks all day with my putter," he said.
Watney expected him to make the putt at No. 18.
"We don't see him miss putts like that very often," said Watney. "And there were a few of them."
The good news for Tiger is that he hit the ball solidly down the stretch and gave himself chances.
"I didn't miss a single shot coming in, which is good," said Woods, now 33-9 in 12 match-play appearances. "And that was fun, to hit the ball that well. Unfortunately, I just didn't make a putt when I needed it."
Woods returns to competition next week in The Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion Course near his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.