- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

From combined dispatches

MARANA, Ariz.

One day after a ceremonious return to golf, Tiger Woods was on his way home.

Tim Clark of South Africa played 16 holes without a bogey and pulled ahead for good on the back nine Thursday, knocking Woods out of the Match Play Championship with a 4-and-2 victory.

Woods holed out a 50-foot bunker shot for birdie on the 14th hole and appeared to be making a run, but his tee shot on the 15th hole hit a cart path and went over a fence and out of bounds, costing him the hole.

Woods likely will play in two weeks at Doral in the CA Championship, though he said he would wait to see how his left knee felt. This was his first tournament since reconstructive surgery on the knee one week after he won the U.S. Open in June.

Asked where he would go from here, Woods replied, “To the airport.”

Clark, a pesky opponent with a sharp short game, didn’t give Woods much of a chance. He was 6-under par when the match ended on the par-3 16th hole, where he put his tee shot four feet away. The putt was conceded when Woods failed to chip in from just off the green.

“I knew I had to play out of my mind to beat him,” Clark said. “I’m very proud of the way I played.”

Clark’s victory means that Phil Mickelson, coming off a victory last week at Riviera, is the highest seed left in the tournament. Mickelson, No. 5, again avoided a late meltdown and hung on to beat fellow Masters champion Zach Johnson, 1 up.

Vijay Singh, the No. 4 seed, lost his last three holes and was beaten by Luke Donald in 19 holes.

The only other top-10 players remaining were No. 8 seed Geoff Ogilvy, who won in 19 holes for the second straight day, this time against Shingo Katayama; and No. 9 seed Camilo Villegas, who beat Miguel Angel Jimenez, 5 and 4.

Van Pelt grabs edge

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico | Midway through his first round at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Bo Van Pelt was right where he started - even par. And he was OK with that considering the wind had turned completely around from his lone practice round, making the course feel entirely new.

He sure figured things out quickly.

Van Pelt birdied seven of his last nine holes for a 7-under 63 and the first-round lead. He started the run with four straight birdies, then birdied three of the final four holes, including about a 2-foot putt to close the round in style.

“I played pretty aggressive,” Van Pelt said. “No matter what I was hitting, it was going straight.”

Hong sets pace

PATTAYA, Thailand | Jin Joo Hong of South Korea emerged as a surprise first-round leader after shooting a 6-under 66 at the LPGA Thailand.

In a field boasting all the world’s top 10 players, it was the unheralded Hong who fired six birdies and an eagle against two bogeys to open a two-stroke lead over Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson and four Americans: Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford, Kristy McPherson and Brittany Lang.

“My putting was really good. It really saved me,” the 25-year-old Hong said. “I had some really bad drives but I was able to catch up with my great putting.”

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