Tiger Woods make 12 birdies in 20 holes to win an exciting match

Tiger Woods was at his best. It almost wasn’t enough.

He was firing at every flag he could, making birdie on every other hole, and still feeling enormous pressure from Aaron Baddeley, who held his own Friday in the Accenture Match Play Championship and twice had putts that would have sent Woods home.

“I just figured I had to make birdie to win the hole,” Woods said. “If I didn’t, I was going to lose the hole. It was just that simple.”

Woods made his 12th birdie on the 20th hole of an electrifying match at Dove Mountain, a 13-foot putt that was so true Woods began removing his cap when the ball was a foot from going into the centre of the cup.

It wasn’t the first time Woods has made so many birdies, but those matches usually end quickly. This one stretched 20 holes, his longest match in nine years of this tournament.

 
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He was relieved, satisfied, thrilled to reach the quarter-finals.

“All of the above,” Woods said wearily. “All of the above.”

It was devastating to Baddeley, playing head-to-head with Woods for the first time since the U.S. Open at Oakmont, when Baddeley had a two-shot lead and shot 80. That was a distant memory on a cloudy afternoon, for Baddeley recovered from a shaky start by making eight birdies in a nine-hole stretch, one of them conceded when Woods journeyed through the desert.

He stood over a 10-foot birdie on the 18th, a tough putt that swung sharply from right-to-left, and missed it under the hole. He had 12 feet for eagle and the victory on the 19th hole, and was stunned to see it turn left and burn the edge.

Woods seized his first chance with his birdie putt on the 20th hole to win the match, reaching the quarter-finals for the fifth time.

“I played great, you know?” Baddeley said. “I made him have to win it.”

Next up for Woods is K.J. Choi, a 1-up winner over Paul Casey of England. Typical of this tournament, those two matches could not have been any different. While Woods and Baddeley combined for 22 birdies and had a best-ball score of 58 in regulation, Choi cooled after opening with three birdies, finishing with 11 straight pars. That was good enough to advance.

The World Golf Championship again has an American flavour. They began this week with a record-low 20 players, but there is still one American alive in each bracket.

Woody Austin easily handled Boo Weekley, 3 and 2, to advance to play defending champion Henrik Stenson, who hung on to beat Jonathan Byrd. Stenson won his ninth straight match, the third-longest streak in the Match Play Championship.

Stewart Cink took advantage of sloppy play by Colin Montgomerie to deny the Scot valuable world ranking points, winning 4 and 2. Cink will play U.S. Open championAngel Cabrera, who made six birdies on the front nine and beat Steve Stricker, 4 and 3.

Justin Leonard reached the quarter-finals for the first time and joined Cabrera as the only players to have not played the 18th hole after three rounds. Leonard dispatched ofStuart Appleby, 3 and 2, after running off five straight birdies at the turn.

Leonard will face Vijay Singh, who rallied from 2-down with two holes to play, then beat Rod Pampling on the 25th hole.

After a furious rally to survive the first round, and a far more comfortable win in the second round, Woods looked like he would have another short day of work when he won the first two holes with birdies against Baddeley.

What followed was match play at its finest, with both players giving away a few holes, then an explosion of birdies that kept the gallery hustling along the desert to see what they would do next.

There were a few ugly moments.

Woods hooked his tee shot into the base of a chollo cactus on No. 4 and tried to play out left-handed with an inverted wedge, but it was so far off line that it bounced off a knee-high wooden stake. One hole later, Baddeley returned the favour by pulling his second shot on the par 5 into a prickly pear bush, proving match play indeed can be dangerous.

Taking an unplayable lie, he tried to drop onto the flat cactus bush and have it roll into the desert sand. But when it stayed there, he stepped gingerly into the bush, and his shot hit the cactus.

Woods plunked a marshal in the head with his errant drive on the 13th, with caromed into the desert and led to a penalty drop. Then came a nerve-jangling finish.

“It was quality shot after quality shot,” Woods said. “Matches like that are fun to be a part of.”

Baddeley took his first lead with a 12-foot birdie on the 14th, after Woods missed from 15 feet. From there, the Aussie played away from the dangerous slopes to the centre of the green, making Woods beat him.

“He did all the things you were supposed to do when you have the lead,” Woods said.

And Woods did what he usually does, starting with an eight-iron into two feet for birdie on the 16th to tie the match. And on they went, both reaching the par-5 17th in two for a putt at eagle, both finding the 18th fairway for a decent look at birdie on the 18th.

Woods could only think of one other match he played at such a high level, when he went the 36-hole distance with Mark O’Meara in the final of the World Match Play Championship in England in 1998.

He lost that match. Thanks to a 12th and final birdie, he now gets to keep playing.

Tiger move on to the next match with Aaron Baddeley

MARANA, Ariz. – Tiger Woods barely broke a sweat. Steve Stricker went into overtime for the second straight day. They had only one thing in common Thursday in the Accenture Match Play Championship, which ultimately was all that mattered.

Both are still playing.

One day after a stunning comeback to survive the opening round, Woods built a quick lead against Arron Oberholser and never gave him much hope in a 3-and-2 victory. Oberholser advanced to the second round with a victory over Bright’s Grove, Ont., nativeMike Weir on Wednesday.

The thrills belonged to Steve Stricker, who made a Steve Stricker on the 19th hole to extend the match, then beat Presidents Cup teammate Hunter Mahan with a birdie putt just inside 50 feet. It was the second straight day Stricker won in 20 holes.

And it was the second consecutive year that Phil Mickelson was given a long weekend off.

 
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Fresh of a victory at Riviera, he couldn’t make enough birdies to keep up with Stuart Appleby, who couldn’t miss. Appleby’s ninth birdie came on the 17th hole, and it was enough to send Lefty packing with a 2-and-1 loss.

“It was a good match, but unfortunately, I just didn’t shoot low enough,” said Mickelson, who has never made it past the quarter-final in this tournament. “I wanted a chance on 18, but unfortunately, I didn’t get it.”

David Toms didn’t have any chance at all.

His back flared up late in his first-round victory over Masters champion Zach Johnson, and the pain was such that he had to withdraw before facing Aaron Baddeley, giving the Australian a day off.

Next up for Baddeley is a third-round date with Woods.

Mickelson shows patience and wins

LOS ANGELES – It has been 20 years since Phil Mickelson first stepped inside the ropes at Riviera, a 17-year-old amateur in awe of the fabled course off Sunset Boulevard, inspired by names like Hogan, Snead and Nelson that were on the trophy.

Lefty finally joined them on Sunday, adding to his impressive collection of PGA Tour titles on the Left Coast.

Mickelson made two clutch putts on the back nine, seized control when Jeff Quinney self-destructed with the putter, and took a relaxing walk up the 18th fairway with a victory he felt was a long time coming.

He closed with a 1-under 70 for a two-shot victory, the 33rd of his career, with 16 of those in California and Arizona.

“The fact I haven’t won this and it has taken me so long to win makes it that much more special,” Mickelson said.

 
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A year ago, Lefty was poised to win in LA until he bogeyed the 18th hole and lost in a playoff against Charles Howell III. This time, he was steady down the stretch as Quinney’s putter changed from a magic wand to a ball-and-chain.

He made four straight putts outside 10 feet, only to make three straight bogeys starting on the 13th hole. The first two came from missing consecutive par putts from seven feet that allowed Mickelson a cushion over the closing holes.

“I just put a little too much pressure on the putter on the back nine,” said Quinney, who made a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that only changed the final score. He closed with a 71.

British Open champion Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald each shot 68 and tied for third, although this was a two-man race from the start, and a one-man celebration over the final two holes.

Mickelson finished at 12-under 272 and earned US$1,116,000.

He might never catch Tiger Woods in the world ranking, PGA Tour victories or in the majors, but for now he has done something the world’s No. 1 player hasn’t – win at Riviera.

Jack Nicklaus never won here, either.

Riviera was Woods’ first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old. He has not played the last two years.

Mickelson made his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines at age 17, then showed up a week later at Riviera. As much as the course impressed him, it also confounded him over the years, and he played there sparingly until returning with a renewed commitment last year.

“I didn’t understand the nuances of this golf course, where you can and can’t hit it,” he said. “And learning those nuances and how to hit the shots into some of these greens has helped me over the years. Last year was when I started to put it together, and I’m fortunate to break through this year.”

His work on the West Coast is not over, even though he has won in every city of regular PGA Tour stops, from ocean courses of Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, soggy La Costa Resort, desert courses in Phoenix, Palm Springs and Tucson, and now Riviera.

Next up is the Accenture Match Play Championship, which he has never won.

The victory came one week after taking an 11 on the 14th hole at Pebble Beach to miss the cut, and two weeks after he lost a playoff toJ.B. Holmes in the FBR Open.

Mickelson said the key to winning Riviera was a change in his putter.

He changed golf balls to a slightly softer cover, and only last week realized that he didn’t recognize the same sound of the ball striking his putter, which caused him to hit harder. He changed the insert in his putter to return the same sound and feel, and it paid off.

Two of his biggest putts came on the back nine.

Quinney had holed a 15-foot putt on No. 8 to close within one shot, then took the lead at the turn with a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 9 and a bogey for Mickelson, whose seven-iron from the top of a bunker sailed well to the right and landed in the 10th fairway.

Mickelson hit driver beyond the 310-yard 10th hole, hit a flop shot to six feet and made the tricky putt to pull even. With a one-shot lead on the par-3 14th, he blasted out of a bunker some seven feet short, while Quinney had a little less than that for par.

Mickelson’s putt was true, Quinney missed on the low side and the margin was two.

“Being able to go first and get that in, I think that made his putt a little more difficult,” Mickelson said.

Quinney held on as long as he could, making a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th after Lefty had chipped to a foot for birdie. Moments after CBS Sports posted a graphic showing Quinney had gone 214 holes without a three-putt, the streak ended with a bogey at the worst time. That was the start of his undoing.

Mickelson attributed his West Coast success to being eager to play after his long winter break, and competing at tournaments that he grew up watching as a kid. The victory Sunday brought back memories of his first trip to this tournament.

“Then I was trying to make the cut,” Mickelson said. “This week I was trying to win. I like it better now.”

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