Second seed Stuart Manley continued his brilliant form to book a place in the final day at the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9, following three wins in the knockout stage.
The Welshman came into the knockout stage full of confidence following rounds of 64 and 69 to see him tied at the top of the leaderboard after two rounds of stroke play. But with 64 players involved in the innovate tournament, it was back to square one on Saturday.
Hugo Leon, the number one ranked player in the knockout stage, was beaten in his opening round, so the onus fell on Manley as the second seed to show his impressive form once again.
In his opening match, the 39 year old beat Spaniard Mario Galiano Aguilar by two holes without dropping a shot and picked up three birdies in his nine holes. Galiano Aguilar pegged Manley back at their third hole but the Welshman retook the lead on his sixth hole and a birdie at the last sealed his progression.
The knockout stage quickly entered the round of 32 and Englishman John Parry suffered the fate of in-form Manley. Two birdies ahead of an eagle on the sixth hole before the Welshman holed another birdie saw him advance with a 4&2 victory over Parry.
After dominant opening rounds, Manley dropped his first shot of the day during his round 16 match against Scotland’s Ross Kellett on the second hole. However, the bogey only spurred him on as he claimed the next two holes.
He moved further ahead with success on the seventh hole and even Kellett’s triumph on the eighth did not affect him, as he won by one to head into Sunday’s final day shootout of knockout games.
Manley, who will play Spain’s Alfredo Garcia Heredia in the quarter final, was thrilled with his work during the day and believes his name could be on the title in Spain.
“Yeah I believe I can win this. It’s only a few more games so why not,” he said. “My form has been good. I led the qualifying which was good. I’ve been playing quite well for the last month or so, so I’m pretty happy and hopefully I can keep it going for one more day.
“I made one mistake in 25 holes, and in this morning’s couple of games I think I was eight under. This afternoon I was a little bit scrappier, but it was a tense, tough match. Ross is a really gritty player with a lot of match play experience, so I knew it would be a tough match, but I’m delighted to beat Ross because I knew it would be a close game.”
Also in tomorrow’s quarter final matches are Jérôme Lando Casanova who will play Jacopo Vecchi Fasso – the lowest ranked player left in the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 at 56.
José-Filipe Lima, who narrowly missed out on success at last week’s 56˚ Open de Portugal @ Morgado Golf Resort, will play Scotland’s Liam Johnston. While fellow Scot Grant Forrest will go head-to-head with local Spaniard Manuel Quiros.
Johnston played all 27 holes to progress, but the Scotsman is enjoying his time at Valle Romano Golf after registering four eagles so far during the event.
“I was good, but it was tiring. I played all 27 holes out of the available 27, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow – it should be good fun,” he said. “I like that eighth hole. I had two twos on it in a row and I managed to hole a wedge on the sixth in the second round of the stroke play. The course is nice, you’ve just got to get it in play off the tee and then it’s really scoreable from there.”