Tiger Woods scored a 2 and 1 victory over Rory McIlroy on Saturday in the most anticipated match of the 2019 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Texas.
Woods, the tournament's No. 13 seed, grabbed a 2-up advantage on fourth-seeded McIlroy with a clean scorecard on the front nine. He closed out the round-of-16 match with a clutch 13-foot par putt on the 17th after back-nine charge by McIlroy.
The 14-time major champion has won this event a record three times, but his last triumph came in 2008.
A clash between Woods and McIlroy jumped to the forefront of every golf fan's mind after the groups and projected bracket were announced Monday.
They first needed to advance through their pools, though. McIlroy cruised though Group 4 with an unblemished 3-0-0 record, but Tiger needed a Friday victory over Patrick Cantlay as well as a little help from Aaron Wise, who knocked off Brandt Snedeker, to reach the knockout stages from Group 13.
It created the first official match play meeting between the superstars.
Woods played some of his most consistent golf of the season on the front nine. He finished with two birdies, both resulting in hole wins, and seven pars to grab the lead at the turn.
His lead increased to three on the 10th when McIlroy missed a three-foot par putt.
The 29-year-old Northern Irishman took advantage of Woods' mistakes to get himself back in the match by winning back-to-back holes starting on the 12th.
McIlroy's comeback fizzled out on the par-five 16th, though.
He actually found himself in perfect position off the tee and Woods found the lip of a fairway bunker, forcing him to hack his second shot into the fairway. Tiger's ensuing approach shot left him 25 feet for birdie, seemingly giving McIlroy a massive advantage.
Instead, the event's 2015 champion hit his iron shot into the greenside bunker and needed five shots from there to reach gimme territory because of an errant pitch. So Woods ended up winning the hole without ever needing to take his fourth shot.
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What a change in momentum. Rory: 395-yard drive (longest drive of the day on 16) Tiger: Finds the bunker Tiger: Lays up Tiger: Finds the green Rory: Misses the green Rory: Goes long Rory: Takes unplayable Rory: Finds the sand Rory: Cards a 7 @TigerWoods is 2 UP thru 16. https://t.co/l8twgqYRP4
Woods got up and down from the rough to finish the match on the next hole.
All told, the battle between two of the sport's icons lived up to the hype. There were plenty of stretches from 2014 through 2017 where it was fair to wonder whether the game's new generation of stars would ever get a chance to face a truly competitive Tiger.
His return to form has allowed that to happen, and a head-to-head battle with McIlroy in match play showed how entertaining it can be.
Woods advances to face Lucas Bjerregaard in the quarterfinals.