(Reuters) – Tiger Woods faces an uphill battle to advance to the knockout phase of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play after losing on day two in Texas on Thursday.
Beaten 2&1 by fellow American Brandt Snedeker, 13th seed Woods will need to defeat Patrick Cantlay on the final day of the round-robin phase at Austin Country Club on Friday and hope Aaron Wise can win against Snedeker in the other match to go through.
Woods, in his first tournament appearance in Austin, at least gave his gallery something to remember when he played a stunning 60-foot recovery shot left-handed from under a bush at the 10th hole.
After taking his stance on one knee, he knocked the ball up to four feet and sank the putt for a halve on the hole.
“I don’t know how he got that up-and-down,” Snedeker said.
The winner of Woods’s group is likely to face fourth seed Rory McIlroy in the round of 16 on Saturday.
McIlroy continued his rich vein of form with his second emphatic victory in as many days, seeing off South African Justin Harding 3&2.
Northern Irishman McIlroy will look to beat Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick on Friday to win his group.
“I finished off with two birdies yesterday and two birdies again (today),” McIlroy said.
“Once I get into position where I sense a little bit of blood, I’m taking my opportunities.”
McIlroy, coming off victory at the Players Championship two weeks ago, is the early favourite to win the Masters, the year’s first major which starts at Augusta on April 11.
Others with a perfect record after two matches include British Open champion Francesco Molinari, major winners Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk, and “Mr 62” Branden Grace, the only player to break 63 in a major.
Swede Stenson and American Furyk face off on Friday, with the winner advancing to the knockout phase.
The other two players in their group, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day, are eliminated.
South African Grace, meanwhile, upset world number one Dustin Johnson 1-up.
Johnson must beat Hideki Matsuyama on Friday to have any chance of advancing, while Grace’s fate is in his own hands.
Victory over Chez Reavie will ensure he proceeds.
Second seed Justin Rose’s hopes are still alive after a great escape saw him halve with fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell.
Rose won the final two holes with birdies, sinking a 20-footer at the 17th followed by a 10-footer at the last to eliminate wine connoisseur Pepperill, who consoled himself with a glass of bold red.
The winner of the Friday match between Rose and Gary Woodland (2-0-0) advances to the knockout phase.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond / Ian Ransom)