Tiger Woods battles into second round of WGC Match Play Championship
Woods beats Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 1-up in Arizona
PGA champion Keegan Bradley powers through with easy win over Geoff Ogilvy
World No.1 and defending champion Luke Donald goes out to Ernie Els
Tiger Woods battled into the second round of the WGC Match Play Championship in Arizona Wednesday with a last-hole win over Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Woods is searching for his first win on the PGA Tour since 2009 at an event he has won three times, but neither player was at their best in a topsy-turvy match.
Fernandez-Castano, making his debut in the elite 64-strong field, birdied the first two holes to go two up before 14-time major winner Woods hit back to win three holes in four.
The American missed a short par putt on the ninth to go two up before his opponent hit back as Woods went double bogey-bogey at the 10th and 11th to fall behind again.
Woods squared the match with a birdie at the par-four 15th and took the lead with a par at the short 16th.
One-up playing the last, Woods had to conjure a miraculous escape from a bunker to salvage his par and close out the match.
He will next play fellow American Nick Watney, who was a convincing winner over British Open champion Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland by 5 and 4.
“We had some big (momentum) swings,” Woods told Sky Sports. “I’m very fortunate to move on.”
The big shock of the first round saw world No. 1 and defending champion Luke Donald thrashed 5 and 4 by South African veteran Ernie Els.
Donald was below his best while former No. 1 Els, the lowest-ranked player in the field after being called in when Phil Mickelson pulled out, holed a string of putts to close out the match and progress to the last 32.
Donald could now lose his top spot if Rory McIlroy or Lee Westwood win the tournament.
No. 2 McIlroy beat South Africa’s George Coetzee 2 up to set up a clash with Denmark’s Anders Hansen, who romped to a 5 and 3 win over South Korea’s Kyung-Tae Kim.
Westwood, who lost his No. 1 ranking at this event last year, beat Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts 3 and 1 to earn a match against Sweden’s Robert Karlsson – who like the Englishman has topped the European money list during his career.
U.S. PGA champion Keegan Bradley beat 2006 and 2009 Match Play winner Geoff Ogilvy of Australia 4 and 3.
“I played about as good as I can,” said the in-form Bradley, who next faces veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez – conqueror of his fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
Youngsters Ryo Ishikawa of Japan and Italian Matteo Manassero also went through after beating FedEx Cup series winner Bill Haas and PGA Tour money list runner-up Webb Simpson respectively.
Ishikawa, 20, will next face Martin Laird, whose fellow Scot Paul Lawrie – winner of the Qatar Open this month and a former British Open champion – will play 18-year-old Manassero.
England’s Robert Rock, who held off Woods to win in Abu Dhabi last month, continued his fine form this season with a 1-up win over Australian world No. 8 Adam Scott to mark his first appearance in a WGC event.
He will next play American Mark Wilson.