Tiger overcomes Holmes in Match Play

Updated: 2008-02-21 10:59

MARANA, Ariz. - Tiger Woods was running out of holes, but not hope.

He had never fallen three holes behind and come back to win in match play as a professional, and his predicament looked particularly dire Wednesday when he took a penalty drop in the desert to lose another hole against J.B. Holmes with five to play.

Tiger overcomes Holmes in Match Play
Tiger Woods celebrates his birdie putt to take the lead over J.B. Holmes on the 17th green during the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship tournament at The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, in Marana, Ariz. Woods defeated Holmes 1-up. [Agencies]

What followed was a charge that had Woods pumping his fists and Holmes shaking his head.

"You're playing the best player in the world, 3 up with five to play," Holmes said. "I just said, 'Don't do anything stupid. Make him beat you.' And he did. What do you do?"

Woods won four straight holes with three birdies and a 35-footer for eagle to produce another stunning rally in the desert, this one allowing him to escape in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

The last time Woods played, he shot 31 on the back nine of the Dubai Desert Classic to rally from a four-shot deficit to win. In the high desert north of Tucson, he played the back nine in 30 for a 1-up victory.

"For some reason, momentum just goes your way," Woods said. "You just get on a run. Sometimes the run is early in the round, sometimes middle or late. It just so happened the last two rounds, it was late. But at least it happened today. At least I had a run. I wasn't playing good enough to win the match unless I had a run."

Fourth-seeded Ernie Els made a run to the airport, losing in the first round for the fourth straight time at this World Golf Championship. He shot 40 on the front nine to fall 6-down, and suffered his worst defeat in 15 matches, 6 and 5 to Jonathan Byrd.

The other top seeds advanced, but not by much.

Phil Mickelson, fresh off his victory at Riviera, withstood back-to-back birdie putts of 40 feet by Pat Perez by making a 4-foot par putt on the 18th for a 1-up victory. Steve Stricker got a small measure of revenge against Daniel Chopra. After losing to him in a four-hole playoff last month at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, Stricker defeated him in 20 holes with an 8-footer for birdie.

Woods started his match by hitting a tee shot into the desert and out of bounds.

"One of the worst shots I've hit in a long time," Woods said.

It looked as though it might end early until a 15-foot birdie on the 14th hole, followed by a meaningless birdie putt from 18 feet on the 15th after Holmes' three-putt. Woods' foot slipped on his downswing at the par-3 16th, and he found a footprint in his line when he arrived on the green, but he rolled in a third straight birdie putt to square the match.

That led to the kind of theater this format always delivers, and Woods came through again.

From 287 yards in the rough, a crisp breeze behind him, Woods hammered a 5-wood that stopped 35 feet from the hole for eagle. Holmes had 45 feet and left it short, and Woods only wanted to make sure he didn't hit it too hard.

It was perfect.

"It was just one of those things where everything kind of turned my way," Woods said.

Holmes missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th — the same distance he had when he beat Mickelson three weeks ago in Phoenix — that would have extended the match.

"He struggled a little bit early in the round, and then made every putt he looked at when he needed to," Holmes said. "That's why he's the best."

Four of the top eight seeds were gone after the first day of the Match Play, one of the most chaotic days in golf. Jim Furyk (No. 6) continued to struggle with his game, losing to Colin Montgomerie, 3 and 2; Justin Rose (7) fell to Rod Pampling, 2 and 1; and Rory Sabbatini, who played college golf at Arizona, lost to Bradley Dredge, 4 and 3.

   Previous Page 1 2 Next Page