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Semifinals Set in Match Play Championship
Sunday morning's semifinalists have been established in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The $9 million event began Wednesday at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
The final four include a grizzled veteran - four-time major champion Ernie Els of South Africa, and three 20-somethings: American Rickie Fowler, Australian Jason Day and France's Victor Dubuisson.
The 44-year-old Els, whose last win came in the 2012 British Open, finished strong in dispatching 20-year-old Jordan Spieth of Texas. The World Golf Hall of Fame member was 1-up or all-square through 11 holes before making a par to Spieth's bogey on the par-3 12th to go 2-up, holding on from there to close out the match on the 16th.
Els is looking forward to his semifinal match against the surprising Dubuisson. "I'm just fortunate to be here and, hopefully, it goes good tomorrow," said golf's "Big Easy. "I still feel I've got a really good one in me."
After playing well all week, Spieth was disappointed with his performance Saturday. "I didn't have my swing, but I was a little mental midget out there," he told PGATour.com. "I was dropping clubs and kind of just whining to (my caddie), and you just can't do that. In match play you've got to keep your cool."
The 23-year-old Dubuisson continues to impress. In his back-and-forth quarterfinal affair with Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, the long-hitting Frenchman made some stellar pars from out of greenside rough late on the back nine to hold off the resilient Ulsterman, 1-up.
In recording his fourth straight win this week to earn a spot in the semis, Fowler also had a difficult time against 43-year-old, 16-time Tour winner Jim Furyk. Furyk enjoyed a 1-up lead on the 16th after a Fowler bogey, but the Pennsylvanian couldn't close the deal, bogeying the 17th to bring the match all-square and followed that with another bogey on the last to fall to the 25-year-old Southern Californian.
"I'm honestly disappointed with the finish," Furyk told PGATour.com. "I had all the momentum and I didn't put the ball on the fairway on 17 and didn't put the ball in the fairway on 18. I don't feel I handed the match away, but I definitely made it too easy on the last two holes."
Fowler, who enjoyed a vaunted amateur career and many match-play victories before turning pro in 2009, took the day in stride. "(I) just had to kind of stay patient, knew he was going to put up some sort of charge like that. And I knew it would be tough for him to continue making birdies. Down with two to play is not a bad spot to be in in match play, and I just had to not worry about the first 16 holes and go play the last two."
Fowler will now go against 26-year-old Jason Day, who beat South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen 2 and 1. Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, suffered from a painful back most of the day but made things interesting in the close match.
"Louis . . . didn't look like he had a sore back out there with how well he played," Day told PGATour.com. "It's tough to play against a really good golfer, no expectations, just free wheel it and whatever happens, happens. He's been playing well the whole week. I've been playing well, as well. Just glad get it in the house."
Oosthuizen admitted his back bothered him. "I was a bit disappointed to start this morning on the range, not feeling too good," he said. "It got better the last four or five holes, I felt a lot better. So it's a bit painful that it always happens when I'm playing well. I need to address it big time now and get it sorted (out). But I felt I played really well. But you can't give away holes to a guy like Jason, you're not going to get them back."
Once the semifinals have been completed, the two survivors will compete in the afternoon's 18-hole championship match.
For complete match details, visit http://www.worldgolfchampionships.com/accenture-match-play-championship/leaderboard.html.