Tiger fights off challenge, advances to third round

2/23/2006 - Golf

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tiger Woods went from a breeze to a
wheeze in the Match Play Championship, not taking the lead until
the 10th hole and having to make a 7-foot birdie on the 18th to get
past Robert Allenby on Thursday.

"I'm advancing," Woods said. "That's a good thing."

Ultimately, that's all that mattered in a second round filled
with dramatic shots, stirring comebacks and some familiar faces who
are pressing on toward the $1.3 million prize that awaits the

Vijay Singh overcame a slow start to beat Miguel Angel Jimenez,
and while it's hard to call that a surprise because Singh is the
No. 2 seed, it was the first time in seven tries that he advanced
to the third round. Third-seeded Retief Goosen also won, but not
before Ben Crane made a hole-in-one on the 16th hole to make him

Phil Mickelson missed several 5-foot putts, but he holed a
25-foot eagle putt on the 11th that sent him on his way to a
victory over John Daly, a match that might have carried more buzz
had it not been played in the morning.

The best rally came from Padraig Harrington, who birdied the
last three holes to send his match into overtime, then beat Angel
Cabrera with a par on the first extra hole.

After two days of wild swings in emotion and momentum, only 16
players remained. And while anything goes in match play, this
tournament was shaping up to be a dandy. Six of the top eight seeds
are still around, the highest number since the Accenture Match Play
Championship began in 1999.

Woods had to labor to join them.

He opened with six straight birdies and smoked Stephen Ames in
the first round, a victory so resounding that the match lasted the
minimum 10 holes. Against Allenby, it took him that long simply to
get his first lead.

It was a struggle to the end.

"We both battled," Allenby said. "At least I made it

Allenby, who developed cramps in his right calf over the final
three holes, pulled even with a birdie on the par-3 16th. After
both players missed birdie putts by inches on the 17th, it came
down to a fairway metal from the middle of the fairway on the par-5
closing hole.

Woods went first, hitting 3-wood into the left bunker. Allenby
came out of his 3-wood, and sent it sailing to the right, beyond
the bunker into grass that had been trampled by the gallery. It was
a bad place to miss, because the pin was cut to the right side.

"I couldn't afford to get delicate with it," Allenby said.

His wedge bounced off the hard ground and sailed 40 feet beyond
the pin. Woods blasted out to 7 feet, and after Allenby missed, he
rolled the birdie putt into the center of the cup.

Woods next plays Chad Campbell, who won the 18th hole with an
8-foot birdie to beat big-hitting Henrik Stenson of Sweden. It was
the Accenture Match Play Championship debut for Stenson, who surely
left with a sour taste having played two rounds without making a
single bogey.

Defending champion David Toms made it to the third round for the
fifth consecutive year with three straight birdies on the back nine
to surge past Jose Maria Olazabal, 2 and 1. He will play Ryder Cup
captain Tom Lehman, who holed out from the sixth fairway for eagle
on his way to a 1-up victory over Adam Scott.

"You've got to be ready for everything," Toms said. "I know
I've played well here, and I know all you have to do is outplay the
other guy."

The easiest day belonged to Chris DiMarco, who birdied five
straight holes to beat Arron Oberholser, 6 and 5. DiMarco lost in
the finals a year ago.

"There might be guys that are better than me, but as far as
competitiveness and never giving up and always fighting and
clawing, I don't think there's too many guys that have that," he

There was plenty of scratching and clawing at La Costa. Eight of
the 16 matches went the distance, with three of them going extra
holes. Mike Weir was among the survivors, losing the last two holes
in regulation to Bernhard Langer, then gathering himself on the
20th hole with a tee shot into 5 feet for birdie.

It was rare for Woods to play all 18 holes. Of his 23 victories
in match play at La Costa, this was only the sixth time he was
extended to the last hole. But more than the 7-foot birdie to win,
he looked back on consecutive birdies on the front nine that turned
his fortunes.

After making three bogeys on his first five holes to fall two
holes behind, Woods made a 15-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole
to cut into Allenby's lead. Then came the par-5 eighth, a mixed bag
of good shots and ordinary ones.

With water down the right side and the breeze in his face, Woods
hit driver off the deck and kept it to the left, in a back bunker
with plenty of green between him and the hole. But he caught his
bunker shot heavy, and slung his club toward his bag. Allenby hit
wedge into 8 feet.

"I hit two really nice shots and then just chickened out on a
bunker shot and left it way short," Woods said. "I wasn't in
position to make birdie, and he was. And I made the putt and he
didn't. All of a sudden, it looked from potentially going back to 2
up for him ... now we're all square."

And now it's back to square one.

The beauty of match play is that the scores are wiped out each
day. All that remain are one-quarter of the 64-man field, all of
them playing well to get to this point.

"I was 5 under today," David Howell said after his 3-and-2 win
over Scott Verplank. "At this stage in the tournament, that's the
standard where you need to be."