Woods rallies to beat Fernandez-Castano

JOHN NICHOLSON AP Sports Writer Published:

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) -- Tiger Woods saw a lot more of Dove Mountain than he wanted Wednesday.

Surviving the rugged desert and erratic play, Woods rallied to beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 1-up on Wednesday in the first round of the Match Play Championship.

"If you're a little off, it can make you look like a fool," Woods said about the cactus-lined High Sonoran Desert layout.

At times, both players were more than a little off.

"I think if there was one day to beat Tiger Woods, this was it," said Fernandez-Castano, a Spaniard with five European Tour victories. "I didn't take the opportunity. I missed a few shots."

Woods, the 2003, 2004 and 2008 Match Play winner, will face Nick Watney in the second round. Watney beat Darren Clarke 5 and 4.

After birdieing the seventh and eighth holes to take a 1-up lead, Woods played the next three holes in 4 over to drop 1-down.

"It was just the nature of the match," Woods said. "It was just like, boy, it was tough. It was tough on both of us. It was just back and forth."

He had three brushes with the desert on the 10th and 11th holes.

He hooked his drive 30 yards into the desert on the par-4 10th, and needed two shots from under bushes to escape. He ended up reaching the green in four, but missed a 7-footer. Fernandez-Castano won the hole with a bogey after following Woods into the desert and taking a penalty stroke from an unplayable lie.

"Emotionally, for both of us, we were back and forth," Woods said. "We were both slapping over there on the left on 10 -- he's taking an unplayable, I'm in bushes and cactus and cacti or whatever you want to call them, everywhere."

On the par-5 11th, Woods had a big advantage off the tee when he found the left edge of the fairway and Fernandez-Castano sliced his 3-wood into a desert wash.

But Woods blasted a 5-wood under a bush to the left of the green, and Fernandez-Castano layed up from the desert and hit a wedge to 3 feet to set up a birdie.

"I was kind of right between clubs," Woods said. "I mean, it's hard to convince myself when I have 272 to the hole and it's a smooth 3-iron, and I decided to take off 5-wood and try to chip it down there and put it either in the bunker or left, so I have an easy pitch up the hill. And I hit it too far. Hit 280."

Woods won with a 9-foot par putt on the par-4 18th after Fernandez-Castano missed a 10-foot try that would have tied it.

"I was lucky to have had that putt on 18 where I saw his putt," Woods said. "His putt hung on the edge. The valley didn't take it. And you would think that my putt should be a left-to-right putt, and it was actually right to left."

After Fernandez-Castano hit his approach close, Woods left his second shot long and right in the greenside bunker, and had to play a delicate shot to avoid having it race down the slope.

"I said, 'You know what, all I have to do is clear the lip with spin, don't try and hit it too hard and fly it down there. Just clear the lip with spin on it,'" Woods said. "I was just really concentrating on trying to put as much spin as I possibly can, but also just barely clear the lip."

Woods pulled even with a conceded birdie after driving the green on the par-4 15th, and took the lead with a par on the par-3 16th. He had a 10-foot putt to end the match on the par-4 17th, but slid it 4 feet past and had to grind to save par.

Fernandez-Castano won the opening two holes, taking the par-5 second with a birdie after both found the desert to the right and Woods had to play a left-handed recovery shot from under a bush.

Woods won the par-4 fifth with a par, and took the par-4 seventh with a 50-foot birdie putt and the par-5 eighth with a 4-footer for birdie.

"We both made our share of mistakes, there's no doubt about that," Woods said. "But somehow I was able to move on."

Woods is making his third start of the year. He tied for third in Abu Dhabi and tied for 15th two weeks ago at Pebble Beach.