Sunday, June 24, 2018

Els advances to Match Play semis

MARANA, Ariz. — It's rare to hear Ernie Els describe his week at the Match Play Championship as "wonderful."

He's usually not around long enough to say anything at all.

Even though Els didn't break par at Dove Mountain until his quarterfinal match Saturday, the 44-year-old South African is two matches away from claiming another World Golf Championship.

Els made birdie from the desert course on the par-5 eighth hole to take the lead against 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, then pulled away for a 4 and 2 victory to reach the semifinals for the first time in 13 years.

"At times I haven't played my best, as you guys have well-documented and know," Els said with a laugh. "But it's match play. I've just done enough to get through."

Today, Els will play Victor Dubuisson, a rising star on the European circuit who won the Turkish Open, and Jason Day faces Rickie Fowler. The championship match follows their semifinal matches.

Day reached the semifinals for a second straight year with a 2 and 1 win over Louis Oosthuizen. Fowler lost a 3 up lead to Jim Furyk but won the remaining two holes for a 1 up victory.

Els won this event seven times when it was at Wentworth in London and featured smaller fields and 36-hole matches. He reached the semifinals in 2001 in Australia, losing to Pierre Fulke.

"I really had a love-hate relationship with this event, as you guys well know," Els said.

"I was lucky enough to get in the field a couple of years ago and beat Luke Donald in the first round. But most of the time, I lost in the first round here either on the 18th or 19th hole. It's been a frustrating time in this event."

Fowler's victory was the third straight round in which he trailed with three holes remaining. He pulled out wins against Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia and Furyk.

"It's nice to get a win no matter how it happens," Fowler said.

Graeme McDowell considered himself fortunate to reach Saturday's quarterfinals after never leading a hole. He finally took a lead 60 holes into the tournament but wound up losing to Dubuisson 1 up.

Spieth appeared frustrated throughout his match against Els, clearly upset at shots and putts and letting his emotions get the best of him.

Spieth apologized after his round on Twitter: ''I'm embarrassed about the way I acted on the course today.. Played like the 13 year old version of myself mentally. A lot of positives..''

LPGA: Anna Nordqvist shot 5-under 67 at the LPGA Thailand for a 4-stroke lead over top-ranked Inbee Park and Michelle Wie in Chonburi.

The Swede sprinkled her third round with four birdies and eagle on the 10th against bogey on No. 5. Leading since the first round, Nordqvist is 11-under 205 and chasing her first win on the LPGA Tour since 2009.

Defending champion Park shot 67 and Wie had 69. Tseng Yani (66) is in fifth place with Cristie Kerr (68) and Lexi Thompson (69).

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome had 65, including eagle on the first hole, finishing 2-over 218.

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