A few more good shots against Davis Love III in Saturday's semifinals and, Clarke would have earned a 36-hole Sunday showdown with Woods, whom he beat here in 2002 to win $1 million.
That's when Clarke discovered that being 2-up with two holes to play doesn't mean a thing in match play. Clarke's drive on No. 17 bounced off a cart path into soggy rough, opening the way for Love to rally and tie the match after 18, then win it in 21 holes.
Clarke, from Northern Ireland, was gracious after the disappointing finish.
'Yes, it was a tough day, but on reflection, Davis definitely played a lot better than me overall and I think it will be a much better final with Davis in it against Tiger as opposed to myself,' Clarke said.
'Davis handed me the 16th, I handed him the 17th and he hit two great shots on the 18th. But I still had a putt for the game, in fact I had two putts for the match, of which I made neither. But as I said, overall, I don't think I played well enough to justify a place in the final.'
Clarke birdied Nos. 14 and 15, then went 2-up after Love bogeyed No. 16.
Both players drove into the rough on the par-4 17th. Love got on in two, but Clarke tried to hit a lob wedge out of the soggy rough and left it short of the green.
'It was a poor tee shot anyway, so it got what it deserved,' said Clarke, who bogeyed the hole to see his lead shrink to one hole with one left.
Love hit a tremendous drive on the par-5, 558-yard 18th and reached in two, finishing with a two-putt birdie to square the match.
Love showed nice sportsmanship on the match's last two holes. He picked up Clarke's ball marker on their second extra hole, conceding a short putt, then picked up Clarke's ball on the par-3 16th after Clarke rolled his long putt just to the left of the hole. It didn't matter, though, because Love then rolled in a 10-footer to win it.
'Davis is Davis, isn't he?' Clarke said. 'We're very good friends and play a lot of practice rounds together and I am delighted for him. He's a world-class guy.'
Woods and Love will play in Sunday's 36-hole final, with the winner getting $1.2 million.
Earlier Saturday, Clarke beat Jerry Kelly 5 and 3 in the quarterfinals.
Everything Woods wears get noticed, even down to his shoes. The world's top-ranked golfer wore white shoes on a Saturday for the fourth time in five tournaments dating to his Target World Challenge in December at Sherwood.
'I decided to mix it up a little bit at my tournament last year,' he said after beating Leaney 2 and 1 in the other semifinal. 'I wore them Saturday, just a little bit of a change. I used to wear them all the time until '99, when I switched over to just exclusively wearing just black shoes or brown.
'I wear nothing but white at home when I'm out there practicing,' he said. 'That's all I have. It's the only thing I have with soft spikes.'
Woods, the defending champion at the Accenture Match Play Championship, has now won 11 straight matches at this event to push his career record to 19-3.
'I've had a pretty good record in match play from my junior golf days through amateur golf until now, and I've always liked it,' he said Saturday after beating Harrington in the quarterfinals and Leaney in the semis, both by 2 and 1 scores.
'I've always liked the idea of going head-to-head, because in stroke play, I mean, it takes us through three days, maybe three and a half days to get a situation where we go head-to-head against somebody. Generally it's not in the same group. So it's nice to be able to tee off on the first tee and go head-to-head against somebody and know that they're going to have to play well to get you.'
COULDN'T STOP THE BLEEDING
Woods' quarterfinal match turned bloody, although it had nothing to do with him or Harrington.
Steve Williams, the caddie for Woods, was slicing an apple at the turn when he cut the inside of his left hand. The gash was so deep that Williams had to get stitches before the semifinal match.
'A woman tossed me a towel when I was cutting the apple, I got distracted and ...'
Woods said he didn't realize what happened until he was walking alone down the 10th fairway, turned around and saw a red-and-white towel wrapped around Williams hand.
'All I saw was blood all over his hand,' Woods said.
Two holes later, security arranged for an ice pack and a bandage so Williams could stop the bleeding.
Shaking his head about the incident after Woods' victory, Williams said, 'I made sure I ate that whole apple.'
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