MARANA, Ariz. -- The snow is gone from the Match Play Championship, and so are Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

In a stunning conclusion to what already is a bizarre week on Dove Mountain, Shane Lowry of Ireland made a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole to eliminate Rory McIlroy in the opening round of golf's most unpredictable tournament.

It was the third time in the last four years the No. 1 seed went home after one round.

Moments later, Charles Howell III finished off a fabulous round in cold conditions by defeating Woods on the 17th hole. Howell, who had not faced Woods in match play since losing to him in the third round of the 1996 U.S. Amateur, played bogey-free on a course that still had patches of snow and ice after being cleared Thursday morning.

The match was all square when Howell hit a wedge that stopped inches from the cup on the 15th hole for a conceded birdie. Then, he holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th and went 2 up when Woods badly missed a 12-foot birdie putt.

"I had nothing to lose," said Howell, who started the year outside the top 100 in the world and hasn't qualified for this World Golf Championship in five years. "In this format, match play is crazy. He's Tiger Woods. I was lucky to hang in there."


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  • Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods marks his ball placement on the 12th fairway in the first round against Charles Howell III during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Rory McIlroy

    Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy lines up his tee shot off the 11th hole in the first round against Shane Lowry, of Ireland, during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods looks down from the 12th tee box at his lie on the fairway in the first round against Charles Howell III during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods tips his hat to fans after putting on the 11th green in the first round against Charles Howell III during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods hits off the 11th fairway in the first round against Charles Howell III during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Rory McIlroy

    Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off the 11th hole in the first round against Shane Lowry, of Ireland, during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods tees off the 11th hole in the first round against Charles Howell III during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Rory McIlroy

    Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy reacts after a shot on the 10th fairway in the first round against Shane Lowry, of Ireland, during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Rory McIlroy

    Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy reacts after a shot on the 10th fairway in the first round against Shane Lowry, of Ireland, during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Martin Kaymer

    Germany's Martin Kaymer is congratulated by his caddie after winning the 13th hole over George Coetzee, of South Africa, during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Martin Kaymer

    Germany's Martin Kaymer lines up a putt on the 13th green in the first round during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Nicolas Colsaerts

    Nicolas Colsaerts, of Belgium, hits out of standing water on the 13th fairway in the first round against Bill Haas during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. Colsaerts won 5 and 4. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Jim Furyk

    Jim Furyk tees off on the 12th hole in the first round during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Bubba Watson

    Bubba Watson hits a shot out of the rough off the 10th fairway in the first round against Chris Wood, of England, during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Bubba Watson

    Bubba Watson tees off on the 11th hole during a first round match against Chris Wood, of England, at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Thorbjorn Olesen

    Thorbjorn Olesen, of Denmark, waits to tee off the 11th hole in the first round against Jamie Donaldson, of Wales, during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. Oleson won 3 and 2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Jim Furyk

    Jim Furyk putts on the 11th green in the first round of play against Ryan Moore during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Nick Watney

    Nick Watney lines up a putt on the fifth green in the first round of the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. Watney defeated David Toms 5 and 4. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Nick Watney

    Nick Watney hits a shot off the fifth fairway in the first round against David Toms during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Louis Oosthuizen

    South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen reacts after missing a putt on the eighth green during a first round match against Richie Ramsey at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Louis Oosthuizen

    South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen waits to tee off the seventh hole during a first round match against Richie Ramsey at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Louis Oosthuizen

    South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen tees off the seventh hole during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Louis Oosthuizen

    South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen lines up a putt on the seventh green during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington

    Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, right, reacts after missing a putt as Ireland's Padraig Harrington fixes a ball mark on the fifth green during a first round match at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Ian Poulter

    Enland's Ian Poulter watches his shot from the 16th tee in the first round during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. Poulter defeated Stephen Gallacher 2 and 1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Italy's Matteo Manassero hits out of the bunker to the 14th green during a first round match against Hunter Mahan at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. Mahan won 5 and 4. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Justin Rose

    England's Justin Rose reacts after hitting an approach shot on the 15th fairway in the first round during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. Rose defeated K.J. Choi 2 and 1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Italy's Matteo Manassero removes his cap after losing 5 and 4 to Hunter Mahan in a first round match at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • K.J. Choi

    South Korea's K.J. Choi reacts after missing a putt on the 14th green while playing England's Justin Rose in the first round during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. Rose won 2 and 1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Hunter Mahan lines up a putt on the 14th green while playing Matteo Manassero in the first round during the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Spain's Sergio Garcia looks over the 17th green before putting during a first round match against Thongchai Jaidee at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Charl Schwartzel

    South Africa's Charl Schwartzel tees off of the 17th hole during a first round against Russell Henley at the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Ian Poulter

    England's Ian Poulter hits out of a bunker onto the 16th green during the first round of the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Erick Montano uses the back edge of a rake to clear snow off the 10th tee for the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. A snow storm blanketed the course on Wednesday suspending the first round of play and postponing it until late Thursday morning. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)


The final matches were played in near darkness, and they could have stopped after 15 holes. Woods wanted to play on, even though Howell had the momentum. Woods was 2 under for the day, and neither of them made a bogey.

"We both played well," Woods said. "He made a couple of more birdies than I did. He played well, and he's advancing."

McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world, built a 2-up lead early in the match until Lowry rallied and grabbed the moment by chipping in for birdie on the par-3 12th and then ripping a fairway metal to within a few feet for a conceded eagle on the 13th.

Lowry missed a short par putt on the 14th, only for McIlroy to give away the next hole with a tee shot into the desert and a bunker shot that flew over the 15th green and into a cactus. But the two-time major champion hung tough, coming up with a clutch birdie on the 16th to stay in the game.

McIlroy nearly holed his bunker on the 18th, and Lowry followed with a steady shot out to 4 feet and calmly sank the putt.

"Deep down, I knew I could beat him," Lowry said. "There's a reason I'm here, and this is match play."

For McIlroy, more questions are sure to follow him to Florida for his road to the Masters. He now has played only 54 holes in the first two months of the season, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi and losing in the first round at Dove Mountain.

The Match Play Championship lost its two biggest stars in one day. The only other time the top two seeds lost in the opening round was in 2002, when Woods and Mickelson lost at La Costa.

Luke Donald nearly made it the top three seeds except for a clutch performance. He holed a 10-foot birdie putt to halve the 17th hole and stay tied with Marcel Siem of Germany. Donald then birdied the 18th from 7 feet to win the match.

Louis Oosthuizen, the No. 4 seed, rallied to get past Richie Ramsay of Scotland.

The opening round was halted Wednesday after 3 1/2 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.

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