Tiger Woods (below) has a brilliant 83-15-2 singles record in major pro and amateur match-play events, and had won 13 straight at the Accenture Match Play Championship before being upset 3 and 1 last Friday by 31st seed Nick O'Hern of Australia. But for all his success, Woods has had some stunning match-play losses. Here are eight that stand out and why.
1 - PETER O'MALLEY, 2 AND 1, first round of the 2002 Accenture Match Play.The loss to a little-known 36-year-old from Australia who had been battling the yips and got into the field as the 64th seed only after Thomas Bjorn and Jose Coceres withdrew should have been an early warning that Woods's three-year run of Tour domination was coming to an end. Curtis Strange said, "It was like the 64th seed beating Duke in the NCAAs."
2 - GARY WOLSTENHOLME, ONE UP, first round of the 1995 Walker Cup. Wolstenholme, the British Amateur champ, was the last man to beat Woods before he turned pro, and his stunning upset ignited Great Britain and Ireland's surprising 14--10 victory. Wolstenholme crowed that Woods's approach at 18, which sailed out-of-bounds, was "the greatest shot I ever saw."
3 - COSTANTINO ROCCA, 4 AND 2, 1997 Ryder Cup. Captain Tom Kite's hopes for a U.S. rally were based on the assumption that Woods would drill the shaky Italian. Oops. The loss capped a week during which Woods won only one match, a four-ball with buddy Mark O'Meara, and spawned what is now conventional wisdom: Woods doesn't care about the Ryder Cup.
March 7, 2005
4 - JEFF MAGGERT, 2 AND 1, quarterfinal of the 1999 Accenture Match Play. Quiet, unassuming and lightly regarded, Maggert made five birdies in an eight-hole stretch, played flawlessly on the final 10 holes and, as the 24th seed, went on to win the event.
5 - DENNIS HILLMAN, 3 AND 2, semifinal of the 1990 U.S. Junior. Woods always says his most-cherished accomplishment was winning three straight U.S. Juniors. It probably would've been four straight if Tiger, then 14, had gotten past the 16-year-old Hillman.
6 - NICK O'HERN, 3 AND 1, second round of the 2005 Accenture Match Play. Another obscure Aussie, this one a lefty making everything with a long putter, was in the zone against Woods. O'Hern nearly aced the 9th, and when he holed a 25-footer at 17 for the clincher, Woods was left to grumble that he couldn't "wait to putt on some good greens."
7 - MARK O'MEARA, ONE UP, final of the 1998 World Match Play. Losing to one of your best friends, as opposed to losing to an obscure Australian, means that you're going to hear about it for the rest of your life. Woods three-putted the 34th hole at Wentworth to give O'Meara the lead ... and the bragging rights.
8 - DARREN CLARKE, 4 AND 3, final of the 2000 Accenture World Match Play. Clarke was Hoganesque, making 12 birdies in 33 holes. During the break after the first 18, Woods diligently pounded balls on the range while Clarke enjoyed lunch, a cigar and some laughs with friends on the practice green. --G.V.S.