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Just When You Thought

2007- WGC-AccentureDifficult to do justice - with the printed or spoken word - to what went down late Wednesday in the first match between Tiger Woods and J.B. Holmes at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
The shorthand: Woods, the No. 1 player in the history of mankind, was 3 down with 5 to play against Holmes, a strapping Kentuckian, longer than Woods himself and stronger than Makers Mark.
Woods birdied from 14 feet 1 inch to win the 14th. Woods birdied from 17 feet 5 inches to win the 15th. Woods birdied from 21 feet 9 inches to win the 16th. And Woods eagled the uphill, 601-yard 17th hole to win the 17th. When Holmes missed a 10-footer on the last, Woods had won the match of the day.
Everything just kind of turned my way, Woods said after producing another series of those moments that only he seems to be able to summon.
There was, at one point Wednesday, a strong possibility, if not the likelihood, of all four top seeds losing. This is not, of course, what the PGA TOUR, or anybody else for that matter, had in mind when they created the WGC events a decade ago.
But late Wednesday, first-seed Ernie Els already had lost to Jonathan Byrd; first-seed Woods was 3 down to Holmes; first-seed Steve Stricker was all square with Daniel Chopra and first seed Phil Mickelson was 1-up over Pat Perez.
Stricker birdied the 20th hole to outlast Chopra who had outlasted Stricker to win the Mercedes-Benz Championship earlier this year. Mickelson also lived to fight another day, holding off Perez and preserving his one hole lead at the end of 18 holes.
The shot of the day for Woods: My vote is the rocket ship he hit from the right rough on the 17th from more than 250 yards with a 5-wood out of a dicey lie.
It came out just like a bullet, Woods said. The decisive eagle putt followed.
And Woods, per usual, came out smelling like a rose.

The first big upset Wednesday was 15th-seeded Colin Montgomerie, finishing with five straight 3s, to upset No. 2 seed Jim Furyk.
Montgomerie was 1-down after two holes but bounced back with a birdie 2 on the second and never trailed thereafter.
Montgomerie, who turns 45 in June, has failed to advance past the round of 16 in seven previous appearances in this event.
I enjoyed the challenge of seeing where I am, seeing where my game is, Montgomerie said. anybody, as we so rightly know, can beat anybody on any day.

Yes, Monty, anybody can beat anybody on any day. Or, if youre Ernie Els, anybody can beat you in the first round of this event.
This time it was Jonathan Byrd, a 16th seed, knocking off the feckless Els, top-seeded in his bracket, 6 and 5.
It marked the fourth straight time Els has shown up in this event and lost in the first round. This time, much was made of Els last-second decision to jet over from London, committing to this event at the 11th hour.
Maybe it was the jet lag. Byrd won three of the first four holes (winning two holes with pars) and was 6-up at the turn.
He obviously helped me out a good bit, Byrd said when asked how Els played. I consider it an upset. But anybody can lose out here.

The first match to end on the first day was Sergio 3 and 2 cruise over Aussie John Senden. The match concluded on the 16th hole with Garcia burying a 5-footer with his belly putter.
Turns out Garcia had two putters in his bag during the round. He started out using the more conventional of his two flat sticks. And I went for it for pretty much the whole round, he said. But then I started not feeling quite as comfortable. I hit a couple of not-very-good putts. So I decided to go with safe route for the last couple of holes. If I would have practiced it a little bit more, then I probably would have gone out with only one putter.
Garcia said he started feeling good on the practice green Tuesday with the short putter while working with short game guru Stan Utley. But its different, the putting green is, than when youre out there on the heat of battle and the pressure is on, Garcia said. So I wanted to take, like, you can call it a safety net, just in case I didnt feel quite as comfortable.
What a play, said an admiring Paul Casey, also a first-round winner, of Garcias choice to put two putters in the bag. I didnt use a 3-iron today. Didnt use a 4-iron either. There you go. Maybe I should take a look'maybe I should take three putters.

Ian Poulter, who edged past Soren Hanson 2 and 1, was in a mild tizzy Tuesday when his driver broke.
Found a perfect driver last week, new Cobra driver was working great, he said. I was standing on the range about five or six shots into the driver and the head comes flying off. It just snaps. Its one of those things that happens every couple of years. So it was a panic on Tuesday afternoon to try to find a driver thats actually going to suit me. Ive managed to do that, which is great.

Woody Austin, a 6 and 5 winner over Toru Taniguchi, doesnt wear the shirts with the hot sauce bottle pattern on them anymore. The company, he said, got tired of the criticism. For his part, Austin said, he liked the shirts.
How can I be so bad off, he said. Im not the one showing up in lavender purple pants and I dont show up with giant white belts and burgundy-colored shirts and Fedora hats. I dont show up with a tie. I dont understand how a fun, colorful shirt is so bad as opposed to all that.
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