MARANA, Ariz. -- Tiger Woods predicted Thursday he likely would have one poor round this week in the World Match Play Championship, even if he did get to Sunday's final round. Twenty-four hours later, his worst fears were realized at the Gallery Club at Dove Mountain.
After falling 4-down to Nick O'Hern in the first seven holes Friday and then staging a stirring back-nine rally to send the match to sudden death, Woods botched a chance to win when his four-foot birdie putt at the first extra playoff hole hit a ball mark and jumped inches off line. That rare lapse from one of the game's all-time great clutch putters cost him dearly at the next hole, the 467-yard second, where O'Hern ended the match and Woods's streak of seven straight PGA Tour victories with a 12-foot birdie putt.
Woods was kicking himself on the missed four-footer at the first playoff hole because he had not spotted the ball mark in his line. He said he would have been able to fix the indentation in the green with no penalty if he'd noticed it before he stroked the ball, but was so focused on getting the proper line he had no inkling it was even there.
"It hit the left side of the ball mark and kicked it right," Woods said afterward. "All I had to do was just fix it and it was in. It was a very simple thing to do. I was so enthralled with just left center, left center, left center and the match is over. I just didn't pay attention. . . . I wasn't even looking. I was just looking at my line. I knew if I hit it inside, left center, the match is over. That's my fault for not paying attention to detail."
Still, such are the vagaries of match play, and O'Hern can now claim to be the only player ever to beat Woods head-to-head in two separate matches since Woods turned professional in 1996. O'Hern eliminated Woods from this event in 2005 by a 3-and-1 margin.
Woods was off his game from the start on a day that felt as if a portion of coastal Scotland had landed in the Arizona desert. A weather front hit the area in mid-morning, and Friday's eight matches were contested under cloudy skies, whipping winds, occasional spitting rain and shivery temperatures in the low 50s. Woods was clearly out of sorts on the front nine and admitted afterward "my golf swing didn't feel very good, and did not feel real good all day."
But O'Hern said he knew full well that Woods would make a run at him on the back nine, and said he felt fortunate to move on to a quarterfinal match Saturday against Sweden's Henrik Stenson. Woods's ouster from the original field of 64 also left only one American remaining among the final eight -- U.S. Ryder Cup player Chad Campbell, who eliminated his Cup teammate, David Toms, 1 up.
"I just battled through it, and the only thing I knew I could do was putt and just try to get it on the green somehow," Woods said of his erratic play. "It was a struggle. I just didn't have any control of my golf swing. I had a two-way miss going today. I hit it right because I was hitting it left. I had a combo thing going."
Still, Woods managed to keep heat on O'Hern, who was having his own problems with a sore back he said kept "seizing up on me" as the chilly day wore on. Woods finally evened the match at the 435-yard 15th when O'Hern botched a chip from behind the green that rolled back to his feet and conceded Woods a 12-foot birdie putt.
They halved the 16th, and O'Hern put more pressure on Woods when he made a 10-foot birdie putt at the 601-yard 17th to take a 1-up advantage going into the final hole. But O'Hern said he knew Woods was going to birdie the uphill 477-yard 18th hole, and that, too proved prophetic. Woods unleashed a staggering 340-yard drive, stuck a sand wedge to within five feet of the pin and sank a pressure five-foot birdie putt to send the match into sudden death.
O'Hern's match-winning putt was preceded by his difficult long bunker shot off a poor lie in the sand.
"I felt as though I hit a really good bunker shot and it was still 12 feet away, which probably didn't look too good," he said. "But I was pretty pleased because I gave myself an uphill putt. I figured I'd give myself a nice uphill putt and could make it."
Woods had left himself a 16-footer at the hole after a poor chip. He said he thought the green had been mowed late in the day and was concerned it would be a tad faster than when he played the hole four hours earlier. But tour officials said afterward the green had not been touched, and Woods's chip checked up 16 feet short. When he missed that putt, O'Hern made his and sent Woods heading to the airport.
Woods insisted he was far more disappointed in his carelessness than about the end of the second-longest tournament victory streak in PGA Tour history, trailing only Byron Nelson's 11 straight in 1945.
"It's not the streak, it's the fact that I'm disappointed I didn't pay attention to detail, something so simple like that just escaped me," he said, adding that "yeah [I'm] very proud [of seven straight wins]. To go basically from July until now without ever finishing out of the top three [including tournaments in Europe and Asia], that's not bad."