MARANA, Ariz. --
Overpowered and outplayed for much of the first round, he was 3 down with three holes to play as he watched the majestic flight of
"The Cadillacs were circling," he said. They must have looked like buzzards.
In an opening round of comebacks in the Match Play Championship, none was more stunning than McDowell surviving to see another day of this most unpredictable event.
Woodland's shot took a hard bounce and landed between two corporate suites. Bogey. With a wedge in hand, Woodland pulled it on the wrong side of the 17th green, and McDowell capitalized by making a 12-foot birdie. Woodland blasted out of the left bunker, over the 18th green and into the right bunker to lose a third straight hole.
McDowell completed his improbable rally with a 6-foot birdie on the 19th hole to win.
"I'm sure he's extremely disappointed right now — and I'm extremely elated," McDowell said. "I'm surprised to be sitting here, having won. Yeah, I hit a couple of quality shots down the last couple of holes, but he had mistakes, as well. It's a brutal format."
It certainly was brutal for the 32 players headed for the airport. Such is the nature of this World Golf Championship, as cut-throat as it comes.
"It feels like a Sunday afternoon on Wednesday," McDowell said, realizing that Thursday won't be much different.
McDowell was among eight players who trailed with six holes remaining and somehow survived.
Brandt Snedeker had to make two tough par saves just to stay alive on the 18th and 19th holes of his match against
Jason Dufner was 3 down with five holes remaining when
Six matches went the distance. Five matches went overtime. The last one was
"I feel for him," Els said, perhaps because he has been there himself.
After a wild day, there was a small degree of normalcy on Dove Mountain. Only three of the top 10 seeds were eliminated —
The better seed — it's really just a number — won 23 of the 32 matches.
"Seeds don't matter. Who you play doesn't matter," said Jordan Spieth, sounding wiser than his 20 years after a tough 2-up victory over Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.
Henrik Stenson, awarded the top seed because
"I'm still in shock," Stenson said. "It was a tough match."
Zach Johnson, the No. 3 seed, went out in the opening round for the fourth straight year, this time to Richard Sterne of South Africa, 5 and 4. Dustin Johnson now has lost in the first round five times in six appearances. He never led in a 4-and-3 loss to Peter Hanson.