MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Tiger Woods produced another incredible comeback in the desert yesterday, playing the final five holes in 5-under par to turn what looked like certain defeat into an unlikely victory in the Match Play Championship.
Woods fell behind J.B. Holmes on the first hole when his tee shot sailed into the desert and out of play, and he was three holes down with five to play after taking another penalty shot from the desert.
But he turned it around quickly, winning the next four holes, capped by a 35-foot eagle putt on the 17th. He escaped with a 1-up victory on the 18th when Holmes missed an 8-foot birdie putt.
“I just kept telling myself, even when I was three down, there’s still a chance to win in regulation,” Woods said. “I was just going to have to start playing a hell of a lot better. Then all of a sudden, putts started falling in from everywhere.”
It started with a 15-foot birdie on the 14th, followed by a meaningless 18-foot birdie on the 15th, when he only needed two putts to win the hole. The first overhand fist pump came at the 16th when he made a third straight birdie from a little more than 20 feet to square it for the first time since they shook hands on the tee to start the match.
The loudest roar came on the par-5 17th, which Woods reached in two with a 5-wood from the rough. He holed his long eagle putt for his first lead of the match, then held on to avoid what would have been a shocking departure.
Woods shot 30 on the back nine in his first tournament since he shot 31 on the back nine of the Dubai Desert Classic to overcome a four-shot deficit and win his fourth straight official tournament.
Ernie Els, the No. 4 seed who changed his mind last week and decided to enter a tournament that has been so vexing, shot 40 on his opening nine and was beaten 6 and 5 by Jonathan Byrd. It was fourth straight time Els has lost in the first round.