• WGC-Accenture Match Play, Day One

Woods survives, but dire Donald is dumped out

ESPN staff
February 22, 2012 « Hull and Brighton settle for a draw | Chartbeat test »
Tiger Woods got the job done late in his round © Getty Images
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Tiger Woods was far from his best as he left it late to defeat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship - on a day that saw No. 1 seed Luke Donald beaten convincingly.

Woods, looking for his first match victory in the event since 2009, made a sloppy start against the Spaniard who had described him as "beatable" ahead of their meeting - losing the first hole to a close-range birdie before quickly going two-down after an embarrassingly wayward drive at the par-five second.

The 14-time major champion got back ahead with a stretch of three birdies in four holes prior to the turn, but successive sixes on the 10th and 11th put him in some trouble. He was unable to make any inroads on that lead until the 15th, where he found a crucial birdie after rediscovering his swing to ensure the pair where on level terms with three holes to play.

Woods got his nose back in front with another birdie at the 16th - after Fernandez-Castano found trouble off the tee - and then had a birdie opportunity to clinch the match at the 17th, but instead rolled his putt well past as he left himself work to do to escape with a half.

That he did, ensuring a half at the last would secure him victory. Fernandez-Castano gave himself a good look at birdie with his approach as Woods went off-line and found a bunker, but the Spaniard was unable to roll in his 10-footer as his opponent made a spectacular up-and-down from greenside to finally get the job done.

"Neither one of us had our best stuff today," Woods said afterwards. "There were huge swings in this match and I was just kind of surviving out there.

"It [the up-and-down at 18] was pretty damn good!"

Woods will face Nick Watney on Thursday, after he beat an overmatched Darren Clarke 5&4.

Luke Donald's tournament is already over, however, at the world No. 1 and defending champion was beaten by Els, the lowest ranked player in the field.

It was an emphatic success for the South African - who rode a hot putter on the way to a 5&4 success that was partly a result of Donald's uncharacteristically wayward shotmaking and some terrible short-range putting.

That means the Englishman could lose his No. 1 world ranking by the week's end, if Rory McIlroy or Lee Westwood can win the event or progress to the latter stages. McIlroy did his part by progressing to round two, claiming a 2-up victory over South Africa's George Coetzee.

McIlroy, though, stumbled on the 16th and 17th holes to give Coetzee an opportunity to get back into the contest. However, a solid birdie putt on 18 handed McIlroy the victory, providing added motivation for the Ulsterman throughout the event.

"To be honest, I came in here yesterday and talked about if I play well and just win matches, that will take care of itself," McIlroy said. "But obviously, it's another incentive waking up each morning and knowing that if you win your match at the end of that day, at the end of the week you could be world No. 1.

"I saw the result on one of the scoreboards on No. 17, I think. So, yeah, we'll see what happens. I have to get through a lot of matches before that, but it definitely gives me an added incentive this week."

Westwood equalled his best ever performance in the event as he defeated Nicolas Colsaerts to give himself another shot at a first third round appearance.

After beating Woods in Abu Dhabi earlier in the year, Robert Rock added another notable scalp to his 2012 collection as he defeated Australian Adam Scott.

Rock, playing in the event for the first time, found it to his liking as his relentless accuracy eventually wore his opponent down, taking a lead down the 18th that he would hold onto to claim a 1up victory.

Another notable shock involved Matteo Manassero, who produced some sparkling golf to defeat American Webb Simpson. He will now face Martin Laird, after he outlasted Alvaro Quiros.

Quiros was not the only Spaniard to suffer disappointment, as Sergio Garcia was bumped out of the tournament by his friend Miguel Angel Jimenez.

However, Ian Poulter was perhaps the most surprising early casualty of the opening day - as he succumbed to a 4&3 battering at the hands of rising Korean star Bae Sang-moon.

Poulter, renowned for his matchplay expertise, never really got going on Thursday - as Bae lived up to his sterling reputation on the Asian Tour with a generally mistake-free performance. He will now face Charl Schwartzel in the next round, after the South African gave big-hitting American Gary Woodland a lesson in one-on-one combat.

The most remarkable comeback went to Jason Day, who made the most of Rafael Cabrera-Bello's inability to close to come back from three down with three to play to win the contest at the first extra hole. He will now face compatriot John Senden, who proved too good for the out of sorts Simon Dyson.

"It was a whirlwind final few holes, but it's good to get the win and be into the next round," said Day.

Graeme McDowell was the first player to be knocked out of the competition, falling 2&1 to YE Yang despite making six birdies during his round. The Northern Irishman saw his hopes slip away after missing an agonising short birdie opportunity to level matters at the 16th.

Yang will now face Hunter Mahan, after he defeated Zach Johnson at the first extra hole.

Elsewhere, Steve Stricker and Louis Oosthuizen are through to meet each other in the second round, after they both won 2&1 against Kevin Na and Aaron Baddeley respectively.

Ryo Ishikawa staged an impressive comeback to defeat last week's winner Bill Haas at the last. He will now face Paul Lawrie, after the Scot engineered a 1up victory against Justin Rose.

Dustin Johnson will face Francisco Molinari, after both men needed two extra holes to overcome Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn respectively - Molinari even chipping in to finally bring the contest to a close.

Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar will enjoy an all-American second round bout after punishing two more compatriots, Jonathan Byrd and Ben Crane.

Jason Day provided the comeback of the round as he wa three down with three holes to play against Spain's Raphael Cabrera-Bello, who blew six-foot par putts at the 16th and 17th before Day hit an exquisite approach at the last to set up an unlikely win.

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