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Nike duo Woods and McIlroy humbled in the Arizona desert

updated 7:37 AM EST, Fri February 22, 2013
The world's top two golfers, Rory McIlroy (L) and Tiger Woods suffered first round defeats in Arizona
The world's top two golfers, Rory McIlroy (L) and Tiger Woods suffered first round defeats in Arizona
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy both lose in first round of Match Play Championship
  • World's top two players fall at the first hurdle in Arizona to players outside the top 60
  • McIlroy is beaten by Ireland's Shane Lowry while Charles Howell III defeats Woods
  • Defending champ Hunter Mahan through but Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson are out

(CNN) -- When Nike signed a multi-million dollar deal to add Rory McIlroy to their ranks they must have salivated at the thought of the world's top player going head-to-head with stablemate Tiger Woods.

Imagine the marketing potential of their twin titans battling it out down the stretch at major championships for years to come, bedecked, of course, in Nike gear.

That dream may well be realized in time, and Woods at least has one title to his name this year, but at the most high-profile tournament of 2013 to date both crashed and burned at the first hurdle.

World No. 1 McIlroy was eliminated in the first round of the World Match Play Championship by Ireland's Shane Lowry in Arizona, to add to his missed cut at his only other appearance this year, in Abu Dhabi.

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Woods, the world No. 2, didn't fare any better, losing to Charles Howell III. The other two top seeds, South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen and England's Luke Donald, the world No. 3, went safely through to round two.

McIlroy squandered early chances against Lowry, who came to life on the back nine, chipping in for birdie at 11 and 12 before an eagle at 13 put him in the driving seat.

The Northern Irishman won 16 to reduce the deficit to one shot but Lowry, ranked 68, held firm to sink a four-foot putt at the last to claim a famous triumph.

"I didn't make enough birdies in the end," McIlroy told the PGA Tour's official website. "Shane had a nice little stretch around part of the back nine. I hung in there, but I just didn't do enough."

"Deep down I knew I could beat him," a jubilant Lowry said. "I'm not here for no reason. I'm not here to make up the numbers.

"I said to Darren, my caddie, walking down 11 or 12, 'He's not liking this one bit. He's the one under pressure, I've got nothing to lose, so let's have a go from here.'

"I'm feeling quite good now, but it's important not to get too high now because it's only the first round, and I've got another match tomorrow."

Heavy snow curtailed the first day and delayed the start on Thursday as the course was prepared for play. And in fading light, Woods and Howell decided to continue playing in near gloom to reach a conclusion.

Woods squared the game on 13 but Howell birdied the 15th and 16th to go two up, wrapping the match up on the 17th.

Woods was naturally disappointed in defeat but was pleased with his performance. "I played well, I really did," Woods said. "I hit a lot of good shots out there.

"It's the nature of the format. You've just got to beat the guy you're playing against, and I didn't do that today. Chucky won the match."

Elsewhere, defending champion Hunter Mahan moved into the second round after a comprehensive 5&4 victory over Matteo Manassero.

Donald, the 2011 champion, fought hard to beat Germany's Marcel Siem on the final hole while fellow Englishman, and European Ryder Cup hero, Ian Poulter beat Stephen Gallacher 2&1.

Graeme McDowell edged a close game with Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk defeated Ryan Moore while 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson and 2012 U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson moved into round two.

There were other high-profile departures in the form of 2011 U.S. PGA champion Keegan Bradley, Lee Westwood and 2012 British Open winner Ernie Els.

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