Clarke edges through after late revival

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The Independent Online

Darren Clarke, Europe's most successful campaigner at the Accenture World Matchplay, and Colin Montgomerie, whose record at La Costa could be worse but not by much, survived perilous positions to advance to the second round. Both were two-down with three to play before Clarke, the champion in 2000 and a quarter-finalist last year, beat Eduardo Romero at the seventh extra hole while Monty defeated Nick Price at the 20th.

Clarke birdied the short 16th to get back to one-down and then chipped in for an eagle at the par-five 18th, after two huge blows had left him just short of the green, to send the match into sudden death. Romero, the 49-year-old Argentinian, had the early chances but it was his bogey at the 25th which gave Clarke the victory. The match was only one short of the longest in the event's history.

The new, slimmed down Clarke, who has been working out six days a week, started the season well with a third place at the Mercedes Championship but his last two tournaments saw him miss the cut with some highly erratic scoring.

It turned out that Clarke had visited his coach, Butch Harmon, in Las Vegas three weeks ago but "misunderstood" one of the moves they had worked on and started doing the wrong thing. "I got into a bad habit and I had to work my way out of it but my game felt good today," Clarke said.

Montgomerie made his first sizeable putt of the day at the 16th with a 25-footer which produced a "good putt, great comeback" comment from Price. "He is so nice, I wanted to hate him for four hours but you can't," Monty said of the Zimbabwean. "It is amazing how one putt can change the world."

Price bogeyed the 17th and then Monty's birdie putt at the last finished six inches short. But given a 15-footer at the second play-off hole for victory the Scot made no mistake for only his second win in the event.

In other matches which went into extra-time, Niclas Fasth lost to David Toms at the 19th while Paul Casey lost to the USPGA champion, Shaun Micheel, at the 21st.

Tiger Woods, who lost in the first round two years ago before winning last year, spent most the day behind to the 64th seed, John Rollins, before gaining birdies on the last two holes to go from one-down to a one-hole victory. He now plays South Africa's Trevor Immelman.

In the only all-European tie, Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson beat Phillip Price 6 and 4 and will play Thomas Bjorn, who defeated Scott Hoch 4 and 3.

Ian Poulter produced an impressive debut win over Chris Riley at the last despite a new putter which misbehaved so much it was immediately taken out of the bag after the round.

Lee Westwood was beaten 3 and 1 by another local player, Phil Mickelson, but Padraig Harrington advanced to the second round for only the second time with a 2 and 1 win over Japan's Toshi Izawa.

Harrington, three-up with three to play, lost the 16th when he missed from eight feet and Izawa holed from six. Then the Irishman had to hole from 10 feet for his par at the 17th to avoid losing another hole. "With my record here, I am just relieved to get through," Harrington said. "And I'm really glad I didn't have to go to 18. I thought I had the match won after 15 but that's the danger of matchplay."

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