Tiger Woods rallies to win in Match Play

Updated: February 22, 2012, 10:58 PM ET
By Farrell Evans | ESPN.com

MARANA, Ariz. -- Battling a severe cold, Tiger Woods beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 1 up in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain. The 36-year-old three-time Match Play champion didn't have his best stuff Wednesday, but it was good enough to hold off the 31-year-old Spaniard.

"Neither one of us had our best stuff today," said Woods, who will face Nick Watney in the next round. "So consequentially the match went back and forth. We both made our share of mistakes, but somehow I was able to move on."

Woods fell 2 down after the first two holes, but he drew the match all square with a 52-foot birdie putt at the seventh hole. He took the lead for the first time with a birdie at the eighth hole, but errant drives at the 10th and 11th holes put him 1 down in the match through 11 holes.

At the drivable par-4 15th hole, Woods made a two-putt birdie to draw the match square. Then he made another birdie at the 16th hole to go 1 up.

Fernandez-Castano had a chance at the 18th hole to push the match into extra holes, but he missed an 11-foot birdie putt. Still, it looked like the Spaniard had a chance to extend the match after Woods hit his bunker shot 10 feet pass the cup, but Woods made the putt to close out the match.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTiger Woods hit his approach shot on the 18th hole into the bunker but got up and down to win his match against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Woods got a putting lesson from his pal Steve Stricker, but he admitted the tutorial didn't help him much Wednesday. He missed several makeable putts during the roughly five-hour round.

"I hit a couple of bad putts today," Woods said. "I had a hard time reading these greens. I talked myself out of two or three putts."

At times his swing looked very efficient, but he struggled with his driver and distance control in the high altitude.

"I have to hit the ball a little better than I did today," Woods said after shooting what would have been a 1-over-par 73 in stroke play. "I've got to get a better feel for my distances out here."

Farrell Evans is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com.

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