From Brian Keogh in Tucson
Tiger Woods is on track for his sixth tournament victory in a row after a nail-biting 20th hole win over Aaron Baddeley in the third round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Gallery Golf Club near Tucson.
The World No 1 came back from one down with three to play to beat the Australian at the second extra hole, draining a 13 foot birdie putt to edge a high quality affair and set up a quarter-final showdown with Korea’s KJ Choi.
Choi beat England’s Paul Casey 2 up as Stewart Cink handed Colin Montgomerie a 4 and 2 thrashing on another thrilling day at Dove Mountain.
The pick of the matches was the clash between Woods and Baddeley that looked certain to go the world No 1’s way when he birdied the first two holes to go two up.
But he never had it easy against a dogged Baddeley, who turned the match on its head to go one up with three to play thanks to eight birdies in a nine-hole stretch from the sixth.
Woods drilled his tee shot to two and a half feet at the 16th to level the match before the par-five 17th was halved in birdie.
But Baddeley was left to rue missed chances from 10 feet for victory at the 18th and 19th and he paid the ultimate price at the 458-yard 20th.
"Unbelievable," said Woods, who had to come back from three down with five to play against JB Holmes in the first round. "When I started out on tour I had a full head of hair.
"I was unbelievable really. I made two mistakes and gave him two holes and he did the same. But every other hole it seemed like we birdied. I birdied, he birdied. He birdied, I birdied. I was unbelievable how many birdies we made out there today."
For the record, they had 20 in 20 holes.
Defending champion Henrik Stenson will face American journeyman Woody Austin after a hard-fought 1 up win over Jonathan Byrd.
The Swede eagled the first from 45 feet but could never extend his advantage after that.
After wins over American opponents in the first two rounds, there was disappointment for Montgomerie as he fell 4 and 2 to American Ryder Cup player Cink.
One up after Cink bogeyed the par-five opening hole, Montgomerie was taken back to all square when he bogeyed the long fifth and never got back in front.
Cink holed a crucial 10 footer at the sixth for a half in birdie with the Scot just 18 inches away but the form that Montgomerie had shown over the first two days evaporated after that as Cink went three up with birdies at the 10th, 13th and 15th before rolling in an 18 footer for a match-winning birdie at the 16th.
Asked what went wrong, Montgomerie said: “Well it’s simple, isn’t it. Putting. I had chances on 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 and missed them all. You can’t do that and expect to win.
“He putted well, putted very well. He even said he got lucky on a few of his putts and I was unlucky. That’s it.”
Set to face Angel Cabrera today, Cink said: “I didn’t have much control of my tee ball today. It was ugly but I scrambled my rear end off and made the putts.”
US Open champion Cabrera, who entered uncharted territory in the Accenture with his second round win over Hunter Mahan, was almost unstoppable as he crushed world No 3 Sticker 4 and 3, carding seven birdies in another impressive display of power and touch.
“Angel always plays well,” said Cink. “When you get this deep in the tournament you are going to have no chumps playing.”
The 38-year-old from Cordoba launched a series of mammoth drives, including back to back 350 yard specials at the fourth and fifth.
The Argentinian’s only bogey came at the second, where he found desert off the tee, but he was soon motoring again with birdies at the fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth putting him four up at the turn.
“Hat’s off to him, he’s playing great,” Stricker said. “If he keeps playing like that he should do very well.”
Casey was fighting an uphill battle from the start against world No eight Choi, who birdied the first three holes to go three up before Casey fought back.
“I birdied the fourth so at least the 10 and 8 was out of the question,” Casey joked. “But he is a very strong player as he proved by where he is in the world rankings and the tournaments he has won and I didn’t make the putts I should have today, simple as that.”
World No 51 Justin Leonard was unstoppable against Aussie Stuart Appleby as he fired eight birides, including five in a row from the 10th to win 3 and 2.
The 35 year old Texan will face Vijay Singh who beat Rod Pampling at the seventh extra hole..
Henrik Stenson (Swe) bt Jonathan Byrd (USA) 1up
Woody Austin (USA) bt Boo Weekley (USA) 3 and 2
Angel Cabrera (Arg) bt Steve Stricker (USA) 4 and 3
Stewart Cink (USA) bt Colin Montgomerie (Sco) 4 and 2
KJ Choi (Kor) bt Paul Casey (Eng) 2 up
Tiger Woods (USA) bt Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 20th
Justin Leonard (USA) bt Stuart Appleby (Aus) 3 and 2
Vijay Singh (Fiji) bt Rod Pampling (Aus) 25th
Woods v Choi; Stenson v Austin; Leonard v Singh; Cabrera v Cink.