CARLSBAD, Calif. — Stephen Ames meant it as a joke.
Tiger Woods apparently didn't think it was funny.
Ames was on the practice range Monday afternoon when he was asked if he would take a carefree approach into his first-round match against the No. 1 player since not many expected him to win. Ames shook his head.
"Anything can happen," he said, breaking into a big smile. "Especially where he's hitting the ball."
Woods hit the ball pretty good Wednesday at the Accenture Match Play Championship, and what happened was like nothing seen in this tournament. Woods won every hole on the front nine — seven of them birdies — and eliminated Ames as early as mathematically possible, 9 and 8.
As he climbed into a van behind the 10th green, Woods was asked if he had read Ames' comments.
"Yes," he said, not offering any other thoughts.
Did they motivate him?
Asked if he cared to elaborate, Woods smiled.
His golf spoke volumes, from an approach into 5 feet for a birdie that was conceded, to an 18-foot birdie on the second hole that hung on the lip for a few seconds before falling.
Ames never had a chance.
"Tiger played exceptionally well," Ames said. Then he looked over to confer with Woods on how many birdies he made on the front nine and he added with heavy sarcasm, "It was a rough nine for Tiger."
"If he continues playing the way he's playing, he should walk away with this — easily," Ames said.
Not everything is easy in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Ernie Els returned to La Costa Resort for the first time in three years and left with a familiar result, losing on the 18th hole to 48-year-old Bernhard Langer. The Big Easy has never made it out of the second round at La Costa.
The other top seeds, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen, had no problem, and Phil Mickelson (No. 5) had to go 18 holes before getting rid of Charles Howell III.
But it was particularly tough for Scott Verplank, who matched the tournament record by going 26 holes before he finally got past Lee Westwood.
Verplank spent six hours on the course, and was told that Woods was out there for only two hours.
"I worked three times as hard as him," he said. "I was thinking that if I won today, I'd probably practice a little bit. But I think I already did. So I'm done."
He wasn't alone.
Seven matches went extra holes, breaking by one the record set in the first round two years ago.
Colin Montgomerie was 4 up through eight holes on Niclas Fasth before he started losing holes, not to mention momentum, and the Scot found himself trailing with three holes to play. He caught Fasth on the 16th hole with a par, then put him away with a par on the 23rd hole.
"It doesn't matter what hole, it's nice to win," he said. "Match play is a lottery, a crazy game."
Had this been stroke play, Montgomerie would have shot 77. Then there was Paul Casey, who shot 4-under 68 and is on his way home, a 1-up loser to Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
Els was among three players in the top 10 who failed to advance to the second round. Zach Johnson birdied the last two holes for a 1-up victory over sixth-seeded Jim Furyk, while Carl Pettersson beat 10th-seeded Kenny Perry, 1 up.