Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Woods struggles to defeat Allenby in match

AP , CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIAAP, NEW YORK

Tiger Woods reacts to his putt on the 16th hole in his match against Robert Allenby during the second round of the Accenture World Match Play Championships at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, on Thursday. Woods won the match.

PHOTO: AFP

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 US$1.3 million prize that awaits the winner.

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 the Fijian 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 sweat.

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 Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who birdied the last three holes to send his match into overtime, then beat Argentina's 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 of Canada 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.

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.

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.

It was rare for Woods to play all 18 holes. Of his 23 victories in match play at La Costa Resort, this was only the sixth time he was extended to the last hole.

Woods next plays fellow American Chad Campbell, who won the 18th hole with an 8-foot birdie to beat big-hitting Henrik Stenson of Sweden. It was a 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 of Spain, 2 and 1. He will play US 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 of Australia.

Backed by several other news organizations, AP made progress on Thursday in talks with the US LPGA about new restrictions on press credentials, but was unable to resolve the dispute in time to cover the start of the Fields Open tournament in Hawaii.

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