From Brian Keogh in Tucson
Tiger Woods produced an incredible late comeback reminiscent of his amateur days to sneak into the second round of the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship at The Gallery Golf Club near Tucson.
On a day when Padraig Harrington cruised to a 4 and 3 win over Jerry Kelly and Ernie Els crashed out 6 and 5 to Jonathan Byrd, Woods rallied from three down with five to play to beat the massive-hitting JB Holmes 1-up.
After struggling for most of the day, the world number one found another gear when he needed it most, rattling in birdie putts of 14, 18 and 22 feet at the 14th, 15th and 16th to level the match before hitting a 290 yard three wood from the rough to 36 feet at the par-five 17th and then draining the putt for eagle to go one up.
Woods will face Arron Oberholser in today’s second round while Harrington will be looking for revenge when he takes American Stewart Cink following his defeat to the American at the same stage of the championship last year.
The Dubliner confessed that he is feeling run down after his joust with the shingles last month and has no idea if he can reproduce the sparkling form he showed in beating Kelly.
“I am not 100 percent confident or 100 percent sharp that I feel relaxed enough for tomorrow’s round that I’ll produce the exact same form,” said Harrington, adding: “I am just trying to recover and I’m in bed all the time. When I go to the gym, I feel like I have just done the hardest work out in the world. It’s not the cold I had last week, it’s the effects of having the shingles.
“I knew Jerry would be a tough competitor but luckily for me, he didn’t hole the putts today. He hit the hole a number of times and it made all the difference.
“On the sixth, I holed from 20 feet and he missed from nine. That really summed up his day. From there I just felt solid and and kept moving forward.
“Jerry obviously had to go after the pins and would have been under more pressure. Today was a solid, comprehensive win. But it certainly would have been a very tight match if I had missed and he had holed there.”
Harrington gifted Cink the match last year, losing four of the first six holes to par before launching a fruitless fightback.
But he looked sharper than he has ever been at this stage of the season yesterday, despite struggling with the after-effects of his shingles attack last month and the flu in Los Angeles last week.
One up after a conceded birdie at the par-five opening hole, Harrington looked likely to be pegged back to all square at the sixth when Kelly fired his approach to nine feet.
But the world No 10 holed from 20 feet and Kelly missed to go two down and never really looked like getting back into the match.
Length was Harrington’s friend yesterday as he drove the 318-yard seventh with a three wood to halve in birdie, holed a crucial seven-footer for a winning par at the eighth to go three up and then two putted the par-five 10th to cruise four holes ahead.
The Europeans had a mixed day overall with Colin Montgomerie bubbling with confidence following his 3 and 2 win over world number seven Jim Furyk while Ian Poulter beat Soren Hansen 2 and 1 and Sergio Garcia used two putters and left his three-iron out of the bag in a 3 and 2 win over John Senden.
Justin Rose lost 2 and 1 to Rod Pampling as Luke Donald edged out pal Nick Dougherty 2 and 1 in an all English affair.
The match of the day was the clash between Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson which produced 16 birdies.
Casey made nine of them, including two in a row to finish and win 2 up while defending champion Henrik Stenson survived a semi-duffed tee shot at the last to beat Australia’s Robert Allenby 1 up.
World No 2 Phil Mickelson beat Pat Perez 1-up but four members of the world’s top 10 bit the dust with Els, Furyk and Rose joined on the plane home by Rory Sabbatini, who lost 4 and 3 to Welshman Bradley Dredge.