Woods advances, Mickelson eliminated from Match Play

MARANA, Ariz. -- Victories came in all shapes and sizes in the Accenture Match Play Championship, whether it was an easy time for Tiger Woods, overtime for Steve Stricker or Phil Mickelson now getting to spend time with his kids.

Anything goes in this format, and 16 players went home Thursday, some in cruel fashion.

"Match play is an animal that's all about the moment," Woods said after his 3-and-2 victory over Arron Oberholser. "It's not about building toward Sunday. If you don't play well, you're going home."

Or in the case of Mickelson, you can play great and still go home.

Lefty birdied his first two holes. He hit a 3-wood from 317 yards to 5 feet for eagle on the 635-yard fifth hole. He added three birdies in a four-hole stretch to start the back nine. And he lost on the 17th hole to Stuart Appleby's ninth birdie of the round.

"It was a good match, but unfortunately, I just didn't shoot low enough," Mickelson said before heading home to San Diego for a long weekend off. He has never made it past the quarterfinals.

K.J. Choi didn't make a single birdie over his final 12 holes and finished his day at even par. He'll be back Friday after winning in 19 holes over Ian Poulter, who again didn't live up to his potential and played slightly worse.

Jonathan Byrd followed his 6-and-5 victory over Ernie Els with a 6-and-4 decision over Andres Romero of Argentina, meaning he has had to play only 27 holes in two rounds.

That's almost a full round less than defending champion Henrik Stenson, who beat Trevor Immelman on the seventh extra hole.

"You do know there's a 15th hole out there," Justin Leonard said to Byrd, and it was a fair question because Byrd hasn't gotten that far in his two matches.

Stricker delivered the dramatics against Presidents Cup teammate Hunter Mahan, closing with three straight birdies to win in 20 holes for the second straight day. Stricker made a 10-foot birdie on the 19th hole to stay in the match and then buried a birdie putt just inside 50 feet on the next hole to advance.

"I'm still playing. That's the key to this event," Stricker said. "The key is to be standing and going on to the next day, no matter how many holes it goes. I feel fortunate."

David Toms had no fortune at all. His back flared up late in his first-round victory over Masters champion Zach Johnson, and the pain was such that he had to withdraw before facing Aaron Baddeley, giving the Australian a day off.

Next up for Baddeley is a third-round date with Woods.

Woods had to play his final five holes in 5-under par to rally against J.B. Holmes in the first round. He had so such worries against Oberholser, playing in his first tournament of the year because of a shoulder injury. He hit his second shot into the desert to lose the opening hole and didn't win a hole until a birdie at the 12th.

"You'd better get organized quick and get off to a quick start and never give holes away," Woods said. "That's one of the things that I did today versus yesterday. I never gave Arron a hole. He had to earn holes."

Match play delivered some key moments on a sunny day amid saguaros and sagebrush.

Sergio Garcia was cruising against Boo Weekley, going 2 up with an eagle on the 10th, but then his putter started acting up, he bogeyed three of the next four holes and was headed home.

Adam Scott missed three putts inside 10 feet over his last four holes and lost to Woody Austin, the seventh straight year that Scott was beaten in the Match Play by an American.

The most bizarre match was the final one of the second round. Stenson was 4 up through eight holes against Trevor Immelman, but it took him 17 more holes to win, and he was lucky to get by.

Immelman, who lost in the semifinals to Stenson last year, drove the 314-yard seventh green and had 20 feet left for eagle, while Stenson hit into a bunker. Stenson blasted out to 3 feet, and Immelman's eagle putt slid 6 feet by the cup. He missed it for par, and Stenson calmly knocked in his birdie for the win.

"I'm just happy I hung in there," said Stenson, who has played 43 holes in two days.

All that mattered was advancing to the third round.

"I don't need to savor the victory," Appleby said of beating the No. 2 player in the world. "Does it mean any more? No. It just means I'm advancing. I don't get a bonus for beating him. Yes, I have to get through one of the best players to move on, so that's been done."

Appleby has not reached the third round since 2001 in Australia.

Colin Montgomerie has not been this far since 2004, and it could not have come at a better time. He is No. 62 in the world and needs all the ranking points he can get to reach the Masters.

After building a 2-up lead over Charles Howell III, the match turned in the American's favor when Howell birdied five of the next six holes to take the lead. Monty put on his Ryder Cup cap, birdied three of the next four and held on for a 1-up victory.

Stenson's match was the longest. Stricker's was the most riveting.

Stricker has never trailed in 40 holes, although Mahan made him sweat. Mahan holed an 8-foot birdie on the 17th to square the match, and after Stricker hit his approach to 2 feet on the 18th, Mahan made birdie from 15 feet to go extra holes.

Then came the 20th hole, the par-4 fourth, with both players some 50 feet away.

Stricker's putt banged off the back of the cup and dropped, and he stretched out his fist to celebrate.

"It was going fast, but it looked good the whole way," Stricker said.