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McDowell's tightrope act continues at Match Play

Graeme McDowell hits from the sand on the third hole at the WGC-Match Play Championship.

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Graeme McDowell hits from the sand on the third hole at the WGC-Match Play Championship.

MARANA, Ariz. — Not even Graeme McDowell can believe he's still alive in the Match Play Championship.

Right when it looked as though he had used up all his magic, McDowell pulled off another improbable escape Friday to advance to the quarterfinals at Dove Mountain. This time, all he had to do was win the last two holes against Hunter Mahan to force overtime, make a 20-foot par putt to extend the match, then win it with birdie on the 21st hole.

"Nine lives have been used up and then some," McDowell said.

He again provided plenty of drama on a warm afternoon filled with it.

Sergio Garcia bizarrely conceded an 18-foot par putt to Rickie Fowler because he felt bad about taking so long on a drop away from bees on the previous hole (see Sideline, 1C). Fowler wound up getting back in the match with three straight birdies and winning with birdie on the 18th.

Jim Furyk rallied from three down on the front nine to beat Harris English.

Ernie Els hit a magnificent shot into the 18th hole for birdie to knock off his second major champion in two days — Justin Rose on Thursday, Jason Dufner on Friday. Next up is Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old who took out defending champ Matt Kuchar.

"I know that he hasn't played his best golf yet this week, so I'm sure it will come (today)," Spieth said of Els. "And I've got to be prepared for it."

The others advancing to the quarterfinals: Jason Day (3 and 1 over George Coetzee); Louis Oosthuizen had the best round, 6 under through 14 in beating Webb Simpson; and Victor Dubuisson won the first two holes and held on to beat Bubba Watson.

Perhaps it is only fitting that McDowell next plays Dubuisson.

McDowell has never led in any match until the last hole; Dubuisson has never trailed in his three.

The only player who had a more unlikely run to the quarterfinals in the 16-year history of the World Golf Championships event was Geoff Ogilvy at La Costa in 2006. In his opening four matches, he watched 10 times as his opponent had a putt to win the match. Ogilvy went on to win the tournament.

No other player, however, has been in a more precarious spot than McDowell for three straight days. He was three down Wednesday to Gary Woodland with three to play when he won the next three holes, then beat him with birdie on the 19th. He was two down with four to play Thursday against Hideki Matsuyama when he won two holes, made a 10-foot par to halve another and won the 18th with par. Then came his comeback Friday against Mahan.

LPGA: Anna Nordqvist made two late bogeys at the rainy LPGA Thailand, leaving her a stroke ahead after the second round in Chonburi. The Swede shot par 72 for 6-under 138. Germany's Sandra Gal (70), Paraguay's Julieta Granada (68) and Spain's Azahara Munoz (68) were tied for second. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (79) was tied for 68th at 9-over 153.

McDowell's tightrope act continues at Match Play 02/21/14 [Last modified: Saturday, February 22, 2014 12:02am]

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