Tiger Woods pulled off a spectacular Houdini-like escape to beat fellow American J.B. Holmes one up in Wednesday's opening round at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The world number one fought back from three down with five holes to play at Dove Mountain's Gallery Golf Club to maintain his bid for a sixth successive title worldwide.
Tournament champion at La Costa in 2003 and 2004, Woods reeled off three birdies in a row from the 14th to level the match before rolling in a 36-foot eagle putt on the 17th green to go ahead for the first time.
Holmes, who had never previously played in competition with Woods, narrowly missed an eight-footer to birdie the last and take the match into extra holes.
"I was not hitting the ball very good for most of the day, so I was very fortunate to be in the match," Woods, 32, told reporters.
"It was just one of those things where everything kind of turned my way. I'm very, very, very fortunate to advance to the next round."
Woods made a dismal start when he struck his opening tee shot out of bounds en route to a bogey-six. He then went two down at the third where Holmes rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt.
The big-hitting Holmes went three up at the fifth before Woods rallied with birdies at the sixth and eighth.
Holmes birdied nine to forge two ahead and Woods paid the price for another inaccurate tee shot at the 13th where he drove right into the desert scrub and was forced to take a penalty drop.
After hitting his third shot short of the green and chipping to two feet, he conceded the hole to Holmes, who was 23 feet from the cup in two, to go three down before his dramatic fightback.
"I just kept saying I could win in regulation," Woods said. "That's what I've always done, even if I'm two down with three to go. I've been in that situation a lot of times and I always say I can win in regulation.
"It doesn't mean that you do, but you have to believe that you can. And today was one of those lucky times where everything just happened to turn my way at the right time.
"The way I was playing most of the day, I should be headed home," added the 13-times major winner who covered the back nine in six-under 30.
"I wish I was playing better. Obviously I need to go do some work after I talk to you guys here and get everything straightened out for tomorrow.
Woods, who suffered a shock 2&1 loss to Australia's Peter O'Malley in the opening round in 2002, meets fellow American Arron Oberholser in Thursday's second round.