In what he called "one of the more emotional matches of my career," Tiger Woods took down reigning Rookie of the Year Aaron Wise on Day 1 of the WGC-Match Play 3&1. Playing in his first Match Play since 2013, Woods was in control early as Wise stumbled out of the gate. But the 43-year-old had struggles of his own at the turn, and only regained the lead when Wise hit the proverbial wall coming down the stretch.
"No, we weren't playing that great today," Woods said. "We were both struggling a little bit. If this was a stroke play event, we'd be pretty far behind. But it was just trying to beat the guy in front of you and that was about it. And I was able to advance."
Still, for a guy who's advanced to Saturday just once since 2004, it was a start Woods will take.
However, Day 2 should be tougher sledding for Woods. His Thursday opponent is Brandt Snedeker. The former FedEx Cup champ is coming off a T-5 at the Players Championship, and his lights-out short game (sixth in around the green, 11th in putting) makes him a formidable foe. Sneds halved his opening match against Patrick Cantlay on Wednesday.
Woods and Snedeker are set to tee off at 12:32 p.m. ET. Golf Digest will be here to keep you up-to-date on the action from Austin.
(All times ET)
4:19 p.m.: After Snedeker hits a beautiful lag to gimme range, Woods has to make from 23 feet and. . . he. . . misses! Snedeker wins the match 2-and-1 to move to 1-0-1. Meanwhile, Patrick Cantlay beats Aaron Wise in the other Group 13 match to also go to 1-0-1. Woods (1-1) will play Cantlay on Friday while Snedeker will take on Wise. That means Woods will have to win and get some help if he's to advance to the knockout stage.
4:15 p.m.: Snedeker leaves the door slightly open with a pulled tee shot to the back-left part of the green on the par-3 17th. Woods follows with a solid shot over the flagstick, but it finishes about 20 feet behind the hole. He'll probably have to make to extend the match.
4:10 p.m.: Tiger Woods is officially on the ropes. After ramming his birdie attempt past, Snedeker drills his from 10 feet. He's now dormie with two holes to play.
4:05 p.m.: After missing the fairway left, Woods lays up to about 60 yards short of the green on the par-5 16th. His pitch ands up a disappointing 17 feet from the hole. Meanwhile, Snedeker lays up to a similar spot and hits his third inside Woods.
3:56 p.m.: In other news, Jim Furyk finishes off Phil Mickelson minutes after Henrik Stenson beats Jason Day. That sets up a Friday match of 2-and-0 players, Furyk and Stenson, for the right to advance to the knockout portion of the tournament. The 48-year-old Furyk's success of late has been particularly timely. After barely getting into the Players, his runner-up finish moved him up to No. 57 in the Official World Golf Ranking, earning him a spot in this event. Now, he's possibly one match win away from cracking the top 50 and earning an invite to Augusta National next week.
3:50 p.m.: Tiger and Snedeker both two-putt for par from about 20 feet on No. 15. Snedeker still 1 up with a par-5, par-3 and short par 4 to come.
3:37 p.m.: Snedeker misses his chip after conceding Tiger's birdie putt. What a turn of events. Tiger now trails 1 down with four holes to play.
3:32 p.m.: VAGARIES! Tiger appeared to be on the ropes at 2 down and with a poor tee shot into a fairway bunker on No. 14, but then he delivered a piercing bunker shot from 165 yards to gimme range.
That should be conceded and Snedeker is going to need to hole a chip shot to maintain his 2-up lead.
3:26 p.m.: That was ugly. Woods makes double bogey and Brandt Snedeker barely wins with a conceded bogey from a couple feet. Sneds is now 2 up through 13 holes.
3:20 p.m.: The 13th hole takes another wild twist as Snedeker, seemingly in control, pulls his approach long. The ball appears headed for the water, but somehow stops a couple of inches short. He should still win the hole. We think.
3:16 p.m.: Uh-oh. Tiger takes an iron off the tee on the 288-yard par-4 13th and... hooks it into the water. Wow. Snedeker puts the lumber back in his bag, gets out an iron (match play strategy!) and hits a very safe shot to the right side of the fairway. Tiger is in danger of going 2 down.
3:10 p.m.: A missed opportunity for Woods on the par-5 12th after a booming drive off the tee. Woods comes up short with his long iron approach, then fails to get up and down, missing a 10-foot birdie. Snedeker's hole plays out in similar fashion, although a bunkered tee shot put him out of position. The matching pars keeps Snedeker's lead at 1 up.
2:53 p.m.: Tiger makes a more conventional par on No. 11, hitting his tee shot to 15 feet before burning the edge for birdie. Snedeker two-putts from a similar range to remain 1 up with seven holes to play.
2:44 p.m.: Woods misses the green with his approach from a divot and looks to be absolutely dead under a bush. Not so fast! Tiger gets down on one knee and slaps a left-handed shot to four feet. Absolutely incredible. Moments later, he converts the par putt to remain 1 down. You're going to see this one a few times!
And here's a slow-mo, up-close look:
2:28 p.m.: Both Woods and Snedeker fail to convert the birdies. Snedker, 1 Up going to the back.
2:24 p.m: From the rough, Woods nearly jars his approach, his ball scooting by 10 feet or so and leaving a very makable birdie putt. Snedeker's second shot is pure, but checks up a few feet too early, bestowing 15 feet. Good chance for Tiger to even things up.
2:20 p.m.: On the ninth, Tiger's drive stays to the left and doesn't catch the slope, leaving a fickle approach. Snedeker uses the hill to his advantage, his drive down the middle and leaving just 100 yards or so left.
2:10 p.m.: Woods has a chance to stop the bleeding on No. 8. After a 325-yard drive, Woods puts his approach to 25 feet. Snedeker's approach goes way to the right, but is able to put it within 10 feet or so for a par save.
Snedeker's save is for naught, however, as Woods shows his first signs of life all day by burying the 25-footer. Snedeker's lead down to 1 Up heading to the ninth.
2:05 p.m.: Spieth is doing a number on Na, now 5 Up thru 13. Gary Woodland is also running out in front of Emiliano Grillo, 4 Up thru 11. Henrik Stenson is 3 Up thru 10 on Jason Day, while a couple of oldie-but-goodies in Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk move their battle to the back nine with Furyk 1 Up.
1:58 p.m.: Snedeker makes a great roll from a precarious situation, a par he'll gladly take. Woods' putt, not so much, leaving it five feet short. Tiger proceeds to come nowhere close with his follow-up, giving Snedeker now a 2 Up lead heading to the eighth.
1:52 p.m.: Wind is ripping through Austin at the moment. Sneds misjudges the gust, his ball on the par-3 seventh staying to the left. It's on the green, but Sneds will have 50 feet over a few humps for his birdie.
Woods answers with a solid approach to the meat of the green...alas, the ball checks instead of hopping forward, leaving a lengthy try for Woods as well.
1:45 p.m.: From the beach, Woods blasts out to four feet or so, about as good as he could have done from there. Snedeker, who's approach reached the green, puts his to tap-in range. Seemingly all things will go all square to the seventh...except Woods misses the shorty. About as bad a putt as you'll see. Snedeker, 1 Up.
1:42 p.m.: Snedeker's approach falls harmless short and right of the green, getting a nice kick to the left. From the trees, Tiger tries to fade his second shot, but the line stays left. Camera loses the ball, although it appears to be in the greenside bunker.
1:36 p.m.: On the par-5 sixth, Woods yanks his drive to the left, but it gets a nice kick and stays to the right of the crowd. Still in the rough, but should have a look at going for the green in two. No worries about Sned's drive, as it's long and true.
1:33 p.m.: From 70 feet, Woods has a marvelous lag to a foot, which Snedeker concedes. Snedeker's eagle try is not as good, an extra two feet or so left. But he makes quick work of it, and the match moves to the sixth all squared.
1:25 p.m.: Tiger and Snedeker both go with the big stick at the drivable par-4 fifth. Woods runs his drive right up the pipe, but a little too much heat on that tamale, running past the pin to the back right of the green. Snedeker also hits a solid drive, his tee shot finishing on the front right of the green. Both have eagle putts, but advantage Sneds at the moment.
1:17 p.m.: Snedeker finds his ball but can only chip it onto the fringe, still some 30 feet away. Across the green, Woods makes a horrible attempt at birdie, leaving his 30-footer 10 feet short.
But Snedeker blows his chip well by the hole, and Tiger cleans up the remaining meat on the bone for his par. Back to all square.
1:15 p.m.: Elsewhere on the course, Jim Furyk drops an eagle to go 2 Up on Phil Mickelson thru six, Spieth moves to 4 Up thru nine, and Molinari stays 4 up thru 11 on Olesen.
1:12 p.m.: Snedeker opens the door for Tiger at the fourth, blowing his tee shot into the native area on the right side of the green. Woods again takes a conservative route, playing a trap draw through the wind to the middle of the green. A long putt is ahead, but given Snedeker's (believed) troubles, it was the right play.
1:08 p.m.: Oof. Woods blows his birdie putt eight feet by the hole. Turns out not to matter, though, as Snedeker converts his putt for the birdie to go 1 Up thru three.
1:02 p.m.: From 148 yards out, Tiger his a nice, if a tad conservative, shot on the third, leaving 25 feet or so for birdie. From the same yardage, Snedeker sticks his second to 10 feet. Chance for Sneds to make up for his miss on the first.
12:56 p.m.: Up ahead, Jordan Spieth is laying the hammer down on Kevin Na, 3 Up thru 7. Go ahead and get your Masters bets in while you can.
Woods lays a nice swing on his drive at the third, finding the right side fairway and setting up a nice approach opportunity. Snedeker sees and matches Tiger off the tee, his drive splitting the short stuff.
12:53 p.m.: Tiger puts a nice stroke, but the putt stays to the left, giving Woods a tap-in par. Snedeker's attempt never has a chance, but Woods gives him the benefit of the doubt. All squared through two.
12:49 p.m.: Woods and Sneds both find the gigantic fairway at No. 2, and while neither approach classifies as a pin-seeker, both find the safe part of the green. A pair of 25-footers await.
12:41 p.m.: A nice effort from Woods comes up just short, which Snedeker concedes. And Woods dodges a bullet, as Snedeker blows his birdie putt to the left. No blood on the first.
12:37 p.m.: From the bunker, Snedeker hits a gem to six feet. Woods finds the green as well in his approach, but it's nowhere near the pin's zip code. A good 45-50 feet remain.
12:32 p.m.: Tiger's opening drive replicates yesterday's opening smack: straight into a bunker left of the first fairway. Snedeker's drive is not any better, a quick duck hook to the left into the rough. We're off.
12:24 p.m.: Though a win won't guarantee entrance to Saturday, a loss would put Tiger behind the eight ball: of the 13 players that went 2-1 at last year's Match Play, only three advanced.
12:15 p.m.: Looking at some of the matches ahead of Woods-Sneds, Paul Casey is 2 Up thru nine on Charles Howell II, Francesco Molinari continues to be a match play beast, 4 Up thru 7 on Thorbjorn Olesen, while Jordan Spieth—who battled Billy Horschel to a draw on Wednesday—is 1 Up on Kevin Na after four holes.
12:05 p.m.: Despite a shaky showing on Wednesday, Vegas is beg on Tiger. Woods is listed at -190 today, with Snedeker coming in at +160.