/ 13 October 2007

Els on course in world match-play

Ernie Els of South Africa remained on course for a seventh world match-play championship, with a six and five victory over Andres Romero of Argentina at Wentworth that booked a semifinal confrontation on Saturday with Henrik Stenson of Sweden.

”I played well when I needed to,” Els said, ”but he didn’t have his best day. I was fortunate to be four up at lunch and my short game definitely saved me. But all in all, I’ve got to be happy with the way things have gone.”

But as Els rediscovered his form, sealing victory with a 30-foot putt on the 13th green, defending champion Paul Casey’s deserted him.

The Englishman’s title defence came to end when United States Open winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina swept him aside with a four and three victory to progress into a semifinal against Hunter Mahan of the US.

With 10 birdies and one eagle in the 33 holes played against Casey, Cabrera was in flying form, and negotiated the outward nine in his afternoon round in just 32 strokes. In contrast, Casey, one down at lunch, never rekindled the form that secured the title last October and could only muster three birdies in his afternoon round.

Casey appeared to lose heart after the turn in the afternoon, when Cabrera, already putting prodigiously, then chipped in on the par-three 10th to halve the hole, just as the Englishman scented an opportunity.

”Today I made crucial shots at crucial times,” Cabrera said. ”To win the championship you have to beat everybody, so I don’t mind who I play next.”

Henrik Stenson crushed BMW PGA champion Anders Hansen seven and six, despite the Dane holing his tee shot at the 10th for a hole in one.

That spectacular effort proved to be a mere stay of execution for the Dane and by the time the pair reached the 12th green, Stenson’s semifinal confrontation with Ernie Els was inevitable.

”I played great today,” the Swede said, ”especially in the morning. This afternoon, I got a birdie on the second, and then hit a couple of bad shots, but he gave up six and seven and after that I felt pretty confident.”

Stenson, whose form in high summer has been disrupted by a persistent grass allergy, now faces the prospect of 36 holes against Els.

”It will be a tough weekend, playing Ernie, the six-time winner who redesigned the course — he even lives here,” Stenson said. ”Are there any more advantages we can give him?” — Sapa-AFP