Donald sent packing as Tiger escapes

 

Marana, Arizona

Luke Donald's nine-month reign as world No 1 is under threat. By losing to Ernie Els in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, a title he won last year, Donald has given Lee Westwood or Rory McIlroy a chance to claim golf's top spot. But victory on Sunday is required for all the numbers to add up. Westwood has cleared the first hurdle beating Nicolas Colsaerts 3&1. Meanwhile, McIlroy was doing his best to overtake South African George Coetze last night.

The numbers added up to a very ugly defeat for Donald by 5&4 to Els. Four bogies, a concession, and just three birdies for last year's invincible Mr Consistency. He even hit a shank and splashed two balls in the water at the 3rd. Funny old game.

Former world No 1 Tiger Woods squeaked home against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. The Spaniard was one up with three holes to play and looking like he was going to make his prediction that Tiger was beatable come true. Then he choked on a slice of humble pie. The Spaniard missed a tiddler of a putt on the 16th, Tiger did not, and stumbled over the line.

It was classic Woods – the 2012 version, not the imperious 2000 model. Tiger's round was more air bag than air punch. One second he was zooming along nicely, the next he was careering into the desert. He even played left-handed with his backside up against a bush. An exhalation of relief on the final green told its own story. "Boy, it was tough," Woods said. "Emotionally, for both of us, we were back and forth."

Meanwhile, Woods' Abu Dhabi nemesis Robert Rock has done it again. Having despatched Woods in the Arabian Desert last month, he has now dusted world No 8 Adam Scott, the Aussie with the identikit Tiger swing. "It's been an a remarkable few weeks," Rock said playing in this event for the first time. "I didn't realise how far it is too fly out here," he said with a laugh.

Paul Lawrie fizzed a seven-iron 187 yards to eight feet on the final green from a hanging lie to edge out Justin Rose. Lawrie's renaissance continues and he has certainly got his desert boots on this year having won the Qatar Masters last month. The 43-year is playing in his first tournament in the States for eight years and has thrust himself back into the world top 50.

Lawrie is still living with the fact that people remember the 1999 Open at Carnoustie not for his victory but for Jean van de Velde's paddling in the Barry Burn. But Lawrie does not mind; he's famous in Aberdeen. If further proof were needed, he revealed he has his name on the side of a bus. "I've made it," he said. "I've got my name on a bus."

Rose, meanwhile had his name down for a taxi to the airport. He could have saves a few dollars if he's waited in the parking lot for his pal Ian Poulter. The tweetaholic announced ahead of his match with 25-year-old Bae Sang-moon: "It's Matchplay time folks love the feeling you get in Matchplay when can look ur opponent straight in the white of his eyes & get that buzz." Yep, there's nothing quite like the buzz of a 4&3 drubbing. He was obviously still mad with himself when he discovered that Sky Sports commentator Bruce Critchley had suggested he was too distracted by growing his business empire."Sorry sky sports viewers for having to listen to his crap every week," Poulter tweeted. Charming.

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