Ernie Els knocks off No. 1 seed Luke Donald

Englishman loses to Ernie Els in opener

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MARANA, Ariz. — Tiger Woods had to play a left-handed shot out of the desert. Dustin Johnson twice won a hole after taking a penalty drop.

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South Africa's Ernie Els watches his tee shot off the ninth hole while facing Luke Donald, of England, during the Match Play Championship Wednesday.  ERIC RISBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
ERIC RISBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
South Africa's Ernie Els watches his tee shot off the ninth hole while facing Luke Donald, of England, during the Match Play Championship Wednesday.

But the strangest sight of all Wednes­day at the Match Play Championship didn’t come from the golf course.

It was world No. 1 Luke Donald on his way to the airport.

“Golf is like that sometimes,” Donald said after his 5-and-4 loss to Ernie Els, becoming only the third No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round.

“It’s a fickle game, and sometimes it bites you.”

Els only got into the 64-man field when Phil Mickelson took his family on a ski vacation.

The first day almost took a bite out of Woods, who had to rally to beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 1-up; and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, the No. 2 seed who was 3 up with three holes to play and was sweating on the 18th until George Coetzee missed a short putt for par.

Donald was so dominant last year in winning the Match Play Championship that he closed out all six of his matches before they reached the 18th hole.

Bill Haas, coming off that monster win at Riviera just three days ago, looked like a winner when he was 1 up on the 17th green and had a 5-foot birdie putt. Ryo Ishikawa holed from 18 feet, Haas missed, and the Japanese star made par on the 18th to win.

In the most thrilling match of the opening round, Jim Furyk was on the verge of sending Johnson home early for the fourth consecutive year when Johnson hit his tee shot into the desert and had to take a penalty drop on the 20th hole.

Furyk chipped across the green and three-putted for bogey to lose.

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