Date: February 21, 2008

Aussies start well in Arizona

Aussies Adam Scott, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Rod Pampling and Nick O&aposHern have all advanced to the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. The quintet will be joined in the next phase by top seed Tiger Woods who roared back from the brink of defeat to escape with a narrow victory over compatriot JB Holmes in the opening round. Scott claimed a two-and-one victory over fellow Aussie Brendan Jones, Appleby recorded a comfortable three-and-two win against South African Tim Clark while Baddeley was far too good for American Mark Calcavecchia winning four and two. Pampling eliminated Englishman Justin Rose from the tournament with a two-and-one triumph and O&aposHern progressed thanks to a three-and-two victory over American Scott Verplank. However, Geoff Ogivly&aposs defence of his Match Play title came to an abrupt halt after American Justin Leonard beat him two and one. Woods was three down with five holes left against Holmes, but he caught fire with his putter not a moment too soon, winning the next four holes as he reeled off three birdies and an eagle at the par-five 17th. He holed putts from progressively longer distances at each hole, starting with a 14-footer at the par-three 14th, followed by a 17-footer, a 22-footer and a 35-footer. Woods duly halved the final hole with a par to win by a hole – much to the relief of the presenting television network, not to mention spectators holding weekly tickets. It was a good day for the large European continent, with 10 out of 19 advancing to the second round. Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia – who ousted Australian John Senden – were among those to post emphatic victories. Harrington built a big lead with six birdies in the first 12 holes against American Jerry Kelly, the Open champion subsequently closing it out for a four-and-three victory, another confidence-boosting performance as he works his way back to form. “I got the start I wanted (two-up after four holes) and from there on I felt solid and kept moving forward,” said the Irishman, who recently suffered doses of flu and shingles. “Jerry obviously had to go after the pins and was under more pressure in that sense. That really made all the difference, the putting.” “I don&apost believe I am quite on the top of my game. I&aposm not feeling as comfortable as I could when I&aposm on the course. I&aposm working hard for everything I&aposm getting.” “I&aposm still a little bit uncompetitive, a bit rusty, (but) I&aposm happy with the form I showed today.” Montgomerie, meanwhile, did not look like the lowly 59th seed as he beat highly-rated American Jim Furyk three and two on a day when fellow British players Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Bradley Dredge also won their matches. Spaniard Garcia, out in the day&aposs first match, took an early lead and was never seriously threatened as he cruised to a three-and-two victory over Senden on a cool morning. Carrying two putters in his bag as a &apossafety net&apos, Garcia used a short putter for the first 14 holes, before dusting off the longer &aposbelly&apos putter for the final two holes. “I made a decision early on and went with (the short putter) for pretty much the whole round,” he said. “But then I started not feeling as comfortable, and hit a couple of not very good putts, so I decided to go the safe route the last couple of holes.” Explaining his decision to carry two putters, and leave a three iron out of his bag, Garcia continued: “You can call it a safety net, just in case I didn&apost feel quite as comfortable.” “At the end of the day, I liked the things we worked on with my putting yesterday, but I still have a little work to do. The putting green is different to when you&aposre out there in the heat of battle and the pressure is on.” Garcia has a lacklustre record in this World Golf Championships event, never advancing past the third round in six attempts, but he is obviously hoping for better things this year. “I feel I should have done better, but it&aposs a funny format,” he said. Donald emerged from an all-English showdown, beating Nick Dougherty two and one. “It was always a very close match,” he said. “You never want to send a friend home but you&aposre obviously trying to stay out here as long as possible.” “Nick played very steady and it just came down to a couple of putts at the end.” Robert Allenby and Richard Green joined Ogilvy, Senden and Jones as Australians to make early exits from the tournament. Swede Henrik Stenson defeated Allenby one up while another Swede Niclas Fasth comprehensively beat Green six and five.