MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) - Tiger Woods stayed on course for an eighth title in nine starts worldwide in Thursday’s second round at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as second seed Phil Mickelson was knocked out.
World number one Woods sealed a comfortable 3&2 win over fellow American Arron Oberholser but left-hander Mickelson was beaten by 31st-seeded Stuart Appleby of Australia 2&1.
Twice champion Woods, who fought back from three down with five holes remaining to edge big-hitting J.B. Holmes the previous day, rattled up five birdies in a flawless display.
The 32-year-old won the opening hole after Oberholser ended up in an unplayable lie in the desert scrub with his second shot and retained control for the rest of the match at Dove Mountain’s Gallery Golf Club.
“I played a lot better today, hit the ball well and even made a couple of putts early on,” Woods told reporters.
“I never gave Arron a hole. He had to earn the holes and I didn’t make a bogey today. Match play is an animal that’s all about the moment, you’d better get off to a quick start and never give holes away.”
Woods, tournament champion at La Costa in 2003 and 2004, will face Aaron Baddeley in the third round, the Australian having gained a bye after the withdrawal of American David Toms due to a back injury.
Mickelson charged two up after eagling the par-five fifth but Appleby hit back with four birdies round the turn before sealing victory on the 17th green.
A resurgent Colin Montgomerie drew on Ryder Cup inspiration to edge American Charles Howell III in a tight, fluctuating encounter.
The 44-year-old Briton, who eliminated world number seven Jim Furyk in the opening round, came from one down with five holes to play with three late birdies.
“I am delighted with the win,” a smiling Montgomerie said. “That was a good effort and I needed that. He’s a very tough opponent and someone who hits the ball a lot longer than me.
“After Charles had just birdied the 11th to go to all square, my caddie said to me: ‘Right Mr. Montgomerie, it’s Ryder Cup mode.’ And I was four under from then on in.”
Montgomerie, winner of a record eight European Tour order of merit titles, was two up after seven holes before Howell piled on the pressure.
The 28-year-old American birdied the eighth to trim the Scot’s lead before launching his four-birdie run at the par-five 10th.
One down on the 14th tee, Montgomerie struck a superb six-iron to four feet to level the match before rolling in a 26-footer to birdie the par-four 15th.
Howell missed a four-foot birdie putt on 15 to slip one behind and both players finished par-birdie-par for Montgomerie to seal victory.
American Boo Weekley came from two down after 10 holes to beat Spaniard Sergio Garcia 3&1 in another tight match.
Weekley birdied 16 and 17 to set up a third-round encounter with compatriot Woody Austin, who squeezed past Australian Adam Scott on the 19th hole.
“The last couple of holes, I told my caddie we’ve got to go for it or we’re done for,” Weekley said.
“We started playing decent and I got lucky on 16 when I knocked one in (from) off the green,” he added, referring to a 35-footer. “It would probably have rolled off the green if it didn’t hit the hole.”
In other matches, American Stewart Cink beat British Open champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland two up, Paul Casey edged fellow Briton Bradley Dredge 2&1 and Fiji’s Vijay Singh scraped past Swede Niclas Fasth one up.
American Jonathan Byrd, conqueror of Ernie Els in the opening round, crushed Argentina’s Andres Romero 6&4 and Rod Pampling hammered Nick O’Hern 5&4 in an all-Australian tie.
Editing by Trevor Huggins