The most unpredictable tournament in golf began Wednesday with only a few surprises as only four of the top 16 seeds in group play failed to win their opening match at Austin Country Club. Woods, a three-time winner of this World Golf Championships, had not played since losing in the opening round in 2013. He had a wild time with Aaron Wise until putting him away on the 17th hole.
Spieth never led his match with Billy Horschel and was 2 down with three holes to play. Spieth birdied the last two holes, the last one to earn a halve that gave him a boost of confidence.
Matt Kuchar has extended his streak of winning at least once in 10 consecutive years of the Match Play.
Kuchar was tied with J.B. Holmes through 14 holes until he birdied the 15th hole to take the lead, extended it when Holmes made a mess of the par-5 16th and closed it out with another birdie on the 17th.
Kuchar won this World Golf Championships event in 2013. More remarkable is that he won in the opening round for five straight years when it was single-elimination.
His win today was his 24th overall in the Match Play.
Rory McIlroy won his 25th match with his 5-and-4 victory over Luke List, while Paul Casey beat Abraham Ancer for his 26th overall win.
Tiger Woods has made a successful return to the Match Play.
Woods lost three straight holes around the turn and fell 1 down to Aaron Wise before he let the PGA Tour rookie of the year make a series of mistakes and miss key putts. Woods built a 2-up lead when Wise missed a 6-foot par putt on the 15th hole, and he closed him out when Wise three-putted the 17th.
With his 3-and-1 victory, Woods now is 34-10 in his 14 years playing the Match Play.
Woods says neither of them played well and they would be "pretty far behind" if it were a stroke-play tournament. His objective was only to beat the player next to him.
It wasn't Royal Troon and the golf wasn't all that memorable. The outcome was the same for Henrik Stenson.
Stenson outlasted Phil Mickelson in the opening round of the Match Play and closed him out on the 17th hole when Mickelson hit his tee shot off the rocks and into a hazard.
They are forever links by the 2016 British Open, where Stenson closed with a 63 to set a major championship scoring record at 264 and beat Mickelson by three shots.
In the other part of the major champions group, Jim Furyk kept alive his hopes of getting into the Masters by overcoming a 3-down deficit to beat Jason Day on the 18th hole.
When does a tie feel like a win in Match Play? When it's Jordan Spieth, and he finishes birdie-birdie to avoid a first-round loss.
Spieth was 3-down after six holes to Billy Horschel and never led at any point. Horschel missed a 3-foot par putt on the 16th hole with a chance to go dormie. Spieth then holed a 6-foot putt to match birdies with Horschel on the 17th hole, and he hit wedge to 2 feet for a conceded birdie on the last. Horschel missed a 10-foot putt that would have won the match.
Spieth, who has not finished better than 35th this year, says finishing birdie-birdie was big for him as he tries to gain confidence under pressure. That's something he hasn't dealt with all year.
Tiger Woods and Aaron Wise, meanwhile, were tied with six holes to go in a see-saw match.
Tiger Woods went from having control of his match to trailing Aaron Wise in a matter of three holes in the Dell Technologies Match Play.
Woods won the first two holes and stayed 2 up when he holed a 30-foot par putt on the par-3 seventh. But he missed the green on No. 8 and took bogey. Wise made a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to tie the match, and then Wise made another birdie putt to go 1 up through 10.
Woods is back in the Match Play for the first time since 2013.
Jordan Spieth was headed for what appeared to be a certain loss to Billy Horschel, who was 2 up on the 16th. Spieth missed a 10-foot birdie putt for a chance to win the hole. Horschel only had to make his 3-foot par putt to stay 2 up with two to play when he missed.
Horschel's lead was 1 up going to the par-3 17th.
Ian Poulter faced Kevin Kisner in consecutive matches separated by one painful year at the Match Play.
Poulter needed to win his quarterfinal match last year against Kisner to be assured a spot in the Masters, and it wasn't even close. Kisner beat him, 8 and 6, the worse loss Poulter ever suffered.
They squared off in the opening round Wednesday, and Poulter got a small measure of revenge. Kisner didn't make it easy on him, holing out with wedge for eagle to tie the match through 16 holes. Poulter answered with a 10-foot birdie putt, and he closed out a 2-up win with another birdie on the 18th.
"I wasn't going to roll over like last year," Poulter says.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, won his first two holes against Aaron Wise and was 2 up through six holes.
Tommy Fleetwood of England is among the early winners in the Dell Technologies Match Play after seizing momentum around the turn to beat Byeong Hun An.
Fleetwood was happy, even though he wasn't sure what to make of it.
Fleetwood is among eight players who have lost their opening match and still won the group. Two years ago, he won his opening match and wound up last in his group.
So it's on to Thursday, where his next match is critical at Austin Country Club. He plays Kyle Stanley, who beat Louis Oosthuizen.
Other early winners include Bryson DeChambeau, who scored a tedious win over Russell Knox. Their match was so far behind that they twice had an entire par 5 open ahead of them.
The 64 players at the Dell Technologies Match Play are guaranteed at least three matches. That doesn't take away the sense of urgency to win the opening match Wednesday at Austin Country Club.
This is the fifth year of group play. One player from each of the 16 groups advances to the knockout stages on the weekend.
But only eight players have ever lost an opening match and won their group, which makes the first session more imperative than it might seem.
Tiger Woods has never played this format. He won his three Match Play titles when it was single elimination from the start. Woods, who last played this World Golf Championship in 2013, faces Aaron Wise in the afternoon.
In other matches, Phil Mickelson plays Henrik Stenson.