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Woods triumphs in unchartered fashion

Woods triumphs in unchartered fashion

By: By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — In his 50th meaningful match as a pro, Tiger Woods found himself in strange territory.
He had never faced an opponent who consistently blasted it so far past him off the tee, but playing against J.B. Holmes in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, Woods was first to hit from all but one fairway.
More troublesome was that Woods had never been down by more three holes in match play and come back to win.
“Not like this,” he said Wednesday.
Woods was 4-down through seven holes last year to Nick O’Hern, but wound up missing a winning putt from four feet on the 19th hole and losing on the next one.
His greatest rally was being 2-down with three holes against Ian Woosnam in the first round of the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in 1998, and beating him on the first extra hole.
Woods was 3-down with five holes to play when he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 14th. Then came Holmes’ lone mistake down the stretch, a three-putt from behind the 15th that allowed Woods to lag his 18-footer for birdie, and he was walking to the hole when it dropped, charging up the gallery.
Then came a 20-foot birdie on the 16th to square the match, followed by a 35-foot eagle to complete his amazing rally.
And when Holmes missed an eight foot birdie on the final hole, Woods had escaped with a 1-up victory.
“You’re playing the best player in the world, 3-up with five to play,” Holmes said. “I just said, ‘Don’t do anything stupid. Make him beat you.’ And he did. What do you do?”
The only thing left was to remove his cap and shake hands with the world’s No. 1 player, and on Wednesday, a survivor.
Woods exhaled, more relieved than thrilled to still be playing.
Holmes appeared to be doing just fine, especially when Woods hit his opening tee shot into the desert and out-of-bounds, and quickly fell 3 down through five holes when a sand wedge spun off the front of the green.
He looked to be road kill in the high desert, especially after taking another penalty drop in the desert on the 13th, needing a flawless finish to have any hope.
And that’s just what he got.
It was a different desert, seven time zones away, but a familiar finish.
The last time Woods played, he shot 31 on the back nine of the Dubai Desert Classic to rally from a four-shot deficit to win.
Next up for Woods is an old friend, but unfamiliar foe.
He plays Arron Oberholser, whom he has known since their junior golf days in California. Oberholser has a shoulder injury and made his 2008 debut by beating Mike Weir of Canada, 3 and 1.
He has never played Woods in match play, and said the last time they played in any competition was at a college tournament hosted by USC when Woods was a sophomore at Stanford.
“I remember it because he hit some shots where I just sat there with my jaw on the floor,” Oberholser said.
Woods has that flair for theater, and he needed an award-winning performance to get past Holmes, whose only consolation that he made Woods beat him.
“I didn’t fall apart, like you see some people,” he said. “I gave him a battle, and today he just won.”

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