February 22 2012
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
MARANA, Ariz. -- On Monday, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano said that his World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship first-round opponent, Tiger Woods, was "beatable." Woods replied on Tuesday that Fernadez-Castano also was "beatable."
As it turned out, both players were probably right.
Although Woods ended up winning Wednesday's match 1 up, it wasn't exactly a thing of beauty. Both players found themselves in the native area on several occasions. Woods had to navigate shots up against the bushes; in fact, he had to play a steep left-handed shot at the second hole.
Fernandez-Castano, making his Match Play debut, left the 18th green kicking himself for not upsetting Woods, who has lost just two first-round matches in 11 previous Match Play starts.
"I think if there was one day to beat Tiger Woods, this was it," the Spaniard said. "I didn't take the opportunity. I missed a few shots. And, of course, you can't miss shots if you want to beat one of the greatest in history."
Woods said there were a couple of key turning points.
At the 12th hole, he rolled in a 7-foot par putt to halve the hole when it looked like he would fall 2 down. Fernandez-Castano then missed an 8-foot birdie putt at the par-5 13th.
After getting up-and-down again at the 14th, Woods drove the short par-4 15th to set up his only birdie on the back nine. Fernandez-Castano bogeyed the next hole, giving Woods the lead for good.
"For some reason, that was the nature of our match today," Woods said. "We had some big swings and as I said, I'm very fortunate to move on."
Fernandez-Castano had a chance to extend the match at the 18th. But his birdie putt from just inside 10 feet slid by. Meanwhile, Woods made his par-saving putt from just inside nine feet.
"I gave him a headache on the 18th, which is good," Fernandez-Castano said. "It's a shame the putt didn't go in, because I hit it where I wanted to and how I wanted."
If Woods wants to advance, he will need to do a better job judging the distances in the thin Arizona air. It was a problem that plagued him on Wednesday.
"I've got to get a better feel for my distances out here," Woods said. "Just the numbers that we can hit the golf ball out here is just amazing, with the altitude and with the wind and being warm.
"There's a lot of numbers going on, taking off percentages and then, you know, for how long is this ball going to stay in the air versus a short and blah, blah, blah. So it's tough."