Clark derails Tigers comeback

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2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. ' One day after a ceremonious return to golf, Tiger Woods was on his way home.
 
Tim Clark of South Africa played 16 holes without a bogey and pulled ahead for good on the back nine Thursday, knocking Woods out of the Accenture Match Play Championship with a 4-and-2 victory.
 
Woods holed out a 50-foot bunker shot for birdie on the 14th hole and appeared to be making a run, but his tee shot on the 15th hole hit a cart path and went over a fence and out of bounds, costing him the hole.
 
Tim Clark
Tim Clark reacts after draining a long birdie putt. (Getty Images)
The good news for golf is that it probably wont have to wait eight months to see him again.
 
Woods likely will play in two weeks at Doral in the CA Championship, although he said he would wait to see how his left knee felt. This was his first tournament since reconstructive surgery on the knee one week after he won the U.S. Open in June.
 
Asked where he would go from here, Woods replied, To the airport.
 
Clark, a pesky opponent with a sharp short game, didnt give him much of a chance. He was 6-under par when the match ended on the par-3 16th hole, where he put his tee shot 4 feet away. The putt was conceded when Woods failed to chip in from just off the green.
 
I knew I had to play out of my mind to beat him, Clark said. Im very proud of the way I played.
 
Next up for Clark is 19-year-old Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who birdied the last two holes to beat Hunter Mahan.
 
Woods, the defending champion, had gone 82 consecutive holes without trailing until he caught a plugged lie in a bunker on the sixth hole and failed to save par. He squared the match with a 10-foot birdie on the next hole, and it was tied at the turn.
 
Then, Clark took over.
 
Starting with the par-5 11th, he won three straight holes with birdies, and was poised to go 4 up when Woods went bunker-to-bunker on the 14th hole. Then came the biggest cheer of the day when Woods blasted out of the sand and into the cup for birdie.
 
The rally was on. And then it ended.
 
Woods tee shot on the 331-yard 15th hit a cart path right of the fairway and headed into the desert. Only when Woods reached the ball did he learn it had gone over a fence and out of bounds.
 
He flung his Tiger cover off the driver and walked back to the tee to play his third shot. Woods was so angry he declined a ride back to the tee. At least he was healthy enough for a long walk.
 
Woods drove the green on his next shot to 20 feet, but missed the par putt, and Clark was again in control.
 
Clarks victory means that Phil Mickelson, coming off a victory last week at Riviera, is the highest seed left in the tournament going into the third round. Mickelson, No. 5, again avoided a late meltdown and hung on to beat fellow Masters champion Zach Johnson, 1 up.
 
Vijay Singh, the No. 4 seed, lost his last three holes and was beaten by Luke Donald of England in 19 holes.
 
The only other top-10 players remaining were No. 8 seed Geoff Ogilvy, who won in 19 holes for the second straight day, this time against Shingo Katayama; and No. 9 seed Camilo Villegas, who beat Miguel Angel Jimenez, 5 and 4.
 
Villegas has played only 26 holes in two rounds.
 
It was a big day for England, which had five players advance to the third round, same as the Americans. Leading the way was Oliver Wilson, who made eight birdies and needed them all in a 2-and-1 victory over Anthony Kim.
 
Woods wound up playing 32 holes, and said everything felt great ' except for losing.
 
I was really pleased, walking down these cart paths, and obviously playing and getting into the rhythm of playing, Woods said. I have no soreness, have no pain. Now its just a matter of getting back and playing, and playing more rounds.
 
Woods again took an early lead with a majestic shot, this one a hard draw with a 3-wood, around a television tower and onto the green on the par-5 second hole. Clark tied the match with a putt that even he didnt think he would make.
 
He was on the back end of the fifth green, two tiers above the hole, when he jokingly asked Woods to move his marker one spot over. Moments later, however, Clark asked him to tamp down his coin. Then, his putt rolled right over Woods mark, down the ridge and broke left toward the cup. Clark raised his arm and pointed his index finger as the birdie putt made its final turn.
 
That squared the match, and Woods fell behind on the next hole when he caught a plugged lie in the bunker. It was the first time Woods had trailed in this tournament since K.J. Choi had a 1-up lead after one hole of their quarterfinal match last year.
 
Woods beat Clark, 5 and 4, in the second round two years ago. That wound up helping the South African.
 
I knew what to expect, Clark said. I knew how I reacted to it then, and I kind of knew a few things that I had to do differently. I just tried to calm myself down.
 
That wasnt easy on the 14th, when Clark was poised to put him away.
 
Woods was in the bunker when he holed it out for birdie, and Clark remembered what happened last year when Woods rallied from three holes down with a birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle blitz against J.B. Holmes.
 
I figured, Well, here we go. Its about to start now, Clark said. I figured the match was probably going to go to 18, even when I was 3-up with three to play. You fully expect him to do something.
 
Not many expected Woods to leave this early, and to be joined by so many other top players ' Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia losing on Wednesday, Woods and Singh joining them Thursday.
 

Related Links:
  • Match Play Scoring
  • Full Coverage ' Tiger's Return
  • Match Play Bracket
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship