/ 15 September 2006

Els, Woods fall at first hurdle

Tiger Woods was sensationally knocked out of the World Matchplay Championship at Wentworth on Thursday by fellow American Shaun Micheel 4 and 3.

It brought to an end Woods’s run of five tournament wins, which encompassed two Majors, but Woods was a shadow of the player who has dominated golf recently, not least on the greens where he barely holed a putt.

On a day of shocks world number two Jim Furyk, another American heading for the Ryder Cup next week, was also eliminated — losing 4 and 3 to Sweden’s Robert Karlsson.

Micheel, a former winner of the United States PGA and runner-up to Woods this year, was three up at lunch and when Woods won the first two holes after the break things were looking ominous for the underdog.

But a birdie four at the 22nd hole, where Woods could only manage par, and another at the par-4 25th, restored the advantage.

Micheel went four up on the long 30th where he holed a five-footer for an eagle and three straight pars finished the job off for a player 76 places below Woods in the world rankings.

Woods said: ”Shaun did what he needed to do and I didn’t make any putts. This afternoon [Thursday] I had my chances but just had a hard time with the pace [of the greens]. If you are having a hard time with the pace then you struggle to read the greens. I got better in the afternoon but it was too late.”

Woods then headed for the gym to contemplate whether to return to the US before the Ryder Cup and to ”get rid of this frustration”.

Micheel said: ”It wasn’t expected but Tiger was not able to keep the ball close to the pins. At four or five holes his ball spun back to where he had no chance to make a birdie and he did not make any long putts today [Thursday].

”We didn’t see too many fist pumps either, which is a good thing if we are playing against him.”

Karlsson’s win over Furyk was built on his play in the morning, which saw him go into lunch five up after scoring an estimated 64, with nine birdies, ten single putts and a chip-in at the par-three 14th.

He was nothing like as spectacular in the afternoon but, and even though Furyk got it back to three down after 24 holes, the damage had been done.

Karlsson said: ”It was a great round in the morning. I holed out extremely well under pressure and holed a few long ones to put him under pressure. I didn’t play well for six holes in the afternoon but I managed to sort it out.”

But the Swede refused to say that the result had any significance on events in Ireland next week.

He said: ”Next week is going to be a new week but it would be great if people round me think it helps a bit for the team. But for me it was just two good rounds of golf that I am very happy with.”

Colin Montgomerie beat European teammate David Howell on the 36th hole whilst Paul Casey knocked out Retief Goosen 6 and 4 and Luke Donald denied Tim Clark, of South Africa, by two holes.

Howell was the only European Ryder Cup player to go out and that was at the hands of a teammate.

Elsewhere, defending champion Michael Campbell eased through with a 3 and 1 win over England’s Simon Khan and Canada’s Mike Weir knocked out Adam Scott 3 and 2.

Six-time champion Ernie Els was another to go out to a player below him in the world rankings, losing to big-hitting Argentine Angel Cabrera. — AFP