Word that Woods was going to speak publicly for the first time Friday dominated the conversation Wednesday, even as 32 matches were being played across the high desert on Dove Mountain.
The day ended with Ross McGowan – who only got into the 64-man field because Woods isn’t playing – becoming only the second player in the 12-year history of the event to knock out the No. 1 seed in the opening round.
McGowan rolled in a 30-foot par putt on the 19th hole to beat Steve Stricker, who was coming off a victory at Riviera and was the top seed in Woods’ absence.
Stricker, the top seed by default because of Woods’ indefinite break from golf, was the only player among the top four seeds to lose.
Lee Westwood controlled his match against fellow Englishman Chris Wood, Jim Furyk went 17 holes before beating Ryder Cup teammate Scott Verplank, and Martin Kaymer of Germany beat Chad Campbell, the first time Campbell has failed to make it out of the first round.
Ryo Ishikawa made a sensational debut at this World Golf Championship.
The 18-year-old from Japan won the last three holes for a 2-up victory over Michael Sim of Australia in a match of rising stars. The signature moment came at the 17th, when Ishikawa hit from a fairway bunker to inside 2 feet for birdie.
Ishikawa advanced to the second round to face McGowan, who only learned he was coming to Arizona five days ago.
“I knew I had a good chance at the beginning of the day,” McGowan said. “It is nice to win and get through for tomorrow. It was quite exciting when that one dropped on 19.”
It was devastating for so many others.
Padraig Harrington, the No. 8 seed, couldn’t make a putt and lost to Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who won his first match in three trips to Arizona. Henrik Stenson, who won this event in 2007 and was the No. 7 seed, didn’t even get past the first hole. He conceded his match to Ben Crane because of flu-like symptoms.
The longest matched belonged to Zach Johnson, who made a 3-foot par putt on the 21st hole to beat Italy’s Francesco Molinari.