Woods, Mickelson advance in Match Play

(AP)
Updated: 2007-02-22 14:31

On a course where it was important not to fall behind, Tiger Woods found himself among the cactus and desert shrub left of the second fairway looking for an escape. His opponent already was on the green, 12 feet away for birdie.


Tiger Woods acknowledges the gallery after chipping close to the hole where he made birdie on the first hole his opening round match against J.J. Henry at the the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz. Wednesday Feb. 21, 2007. [AP]
"It looked like he was going to take a 1-up lead and get some momentum on his side early," Woods said. "And it just never happened."

Woods went from the desert to the fairway and made a 20-foot par putt to halve the hole, setting the tone for a 3-and-2 victory over Ryder Cup teammate J.J. Henry in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

One match down, five to go if the world's No. 1 player wants to stretch his PGA Tour winning streak to eight.

After one round at The Gallery, it figures to be a wild ride.

For the second straight year, the shortest day belonged to Stephen Ames. He was on the losing end of a record rout by Woods last year at La Costa, but experienced the flip side of this fickle tournament by making seven birdies in 11 holes to bury Robert Karlsson of Sweden, 8 and 7.

Seven matches went the distance, including fourth-seeded Phil Mickelson holding off fellow lefty Richard Green of Australia.

Four matches went overtime, none more shocking than No. 3 seed Adam Scott making a birdie on the 18th hole to extend his match, only to three-putt the 21st hole to lose to Shaun Micheel.

Jim Furyk, the No. 2 seed, was trailing at the turn until he ran off three straight birdies and outlasted Brett Quigley, 2 and 1.

And while the Match Play left soggy San Diego for the high desert north of Tucson, that didn't help Ernie Els. For the fifth time, the Big Easy was ousted in the first round, making only one birdie in his 4-and-3 loss to Bradley Dredge.

Thomas Bjorn of Denmark summed it up for 31 other guys headed for the airport after losing, 6 and 5, to Trevor Immelman.

"Disappointed to come all the way for that," he said.

Woods was 5 under in the 16 holes he played, making only one bogey. But it was a tougher day than the result showed.

"It was actually a pretty tight match," Woods said. "J.J. hit a lot of beautiful putts in the middle part of the round and even on the back nine, and those putts just didn't go in. Had they gone in it might have been a different story."

Woods advanced to face Tim Clark of South Africa, a 3-and-2 winner over Robert Allenby.

Some feel this might be the toughest hurdle in Woods' unlikely quest to win 11 straight PGA Tour events, the record Byron Nelson set over five months in 1945. But on a warm day of swirling wind in the high desert and on The Gallery course with pins tucked close to the edge of greens he did himself a favor by not getting behind.
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