Seven European Tour Members moved into the last 16 of the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship with the number one seed Ernie Els once again leading the way after fighting back from three down to defeat Japan’s Hidemichi Tanaka on the final hole.
Els, joined by Michael Campbell, Andrew Coltart, Pierre Fulke, Mark McNulty, Nick O’Hern and Jean Van de Velde in the third round, now plays Van de Velde who beat another another South African, Retief Goosen, by 4 and 3.
Van de Velde, who was in sparkling form, said: “I think I was five under through nine, so that helped. I birdied four, five, six, seven and nine and Retief had a bit of a slow start because he bogeyed two and three, so you know, I took advantage of that.
“Then after that he started picking up speed, so he was making the birdies. I made a couple as well to stay away from him, and that was it really, but I have been playing well.
“I hit the ball very well today. I probably missed a fairway or two, but I was very consistent. I hit a lot of good shots, a lot of iron shots and I’m putting pretty well, touch wood.”
Els knows he is in for a battle against the Frenchman after his narrow win over Tanaka. Els, pushed all the way, said: “I think I made two mistakes all day and that was missing two putts, but other than that I thought I played quite solidly.”
Looking ahead to his match with Van de Velde, Els said: “In Europe we played quite a bit of golf together. He’s another good putter, so I’m going to have my work cut out again. You have guys that putt well in match play, you normally have your work cut out, so I’ll have to play well,” Els said.
Fulke, twice a winner on the 2000 European Tour International Schedule, finally got the better of Glen Day at the 20th and now faces Michael Campbell, a winner of five events in all last year. Fulke, winner of the 2000 Volvo Masters, birdied the 18th hole to force the play-off before securing his place in the third round.
Fulke said: “ I played very solid for 13 holes but found it difficult to keep my concentration in the Australian heat.
“I was two up after nine holes, but Glen turned it around after I made bogeys on the 14th, 16th and 17th.”
In fact Day missed from nine feet for the match at the 17th, and Fulke holed from 25 feet for a winning birdie at the 18th.
Fulke, who won the 2000 Canon Shot of the Year on the European Tour International Schedule, then produced another spectacular shot to secure a place in the last 16.
At the second extra hole he struck his tee shot to within four inches of the cup. “First time around I hit it to eight inches at that hole,” he said. “But to hit it inside that to wrap-up the match is special, you could say it is a hole I like!”
Fulke who now faces Campbell, the number five seed, said: “It is going to be a tough game but it is about time someone put some pressure on him. I feel my game is coming on and feel I’ve got a good chance to reach the quarter finals.”
A confident Campbell said he’s prepared to back himself to go all the way after dispensing of Japanese professional Toshi Izawa 5 and 4.
He declared: “I shot six-under today and five under yesterday. My game has moved up a couple of notches, and that’s what I need to win this tournament. Probably now, I think I might back myself.”
O’Hern was understandably full of confidence after his comprehensive 5 and 3 win over Tim Herron, following his win against number two seed Hal Sutton in the first round. He explained: “If I can keep playing the way I am, someone is going to have to play pretty good to beat me. Match play is a great format, I love the one-on-one competition. At the moment I’m feeling pretty good about myself, so who knows how far I can go?”
Again showing his liking for all things Australian - two of his three professional victories have come Down Under - Coltart followed up his 3 and 2 win over Phillip Price by beating ninth-seeded American David Toms 3 and 2. Coltart now meets 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler for a place in the quarter-finals.
Coltart was an approximate five under par for the second day running, but even though he went to the turn in 32 he was still on level terms with Toms. Then came the shot which filled him with confidence, a 235-yards five-wood into the long 12th that stopped a foot from the flag for a conceded eagle.
Toms then made it easier than Coltart could have expected by bogeying the 14th, 15th and 16th to go out. "Getting here last week has paid off," said Coltart, who was sixth on the same Metropolitan course in the 1997 Australian Open won by Lee Westwood.
Asked if there was anything about Australia which made him play so well Coltart replied: "I just like the courses and psychologically I think that makes a difference. But I also think I will need to play better against Craig Stadler.”
Gary Orr came close to taking the prized scalp of former Open Champion Justin Leonard having moved two up with four to play. But the Scot lost at the second extra hole after two double bogeys and a three putt bogey.
"I thought I was almost there on the 14th, but that's match play," he sighed. "It's disappointing, but you can only do your best. I didn't play very well - and he played very poorly.
I probably should have hit one less club into the 16th. I didn't think it was the end of the world going into the bunker, but the ball ran onto the downslope and there was no sand underneath."
Paul Lawrie's driving let him down as he crashed 5 and 4 to Zimbabwean Mark McNulty and Bob May lost to Shigeki Maruyama. After a brilliant opening day Per-Ulrik Johansson was defeated by Stuart Appleby on day two by 4 and 3.
Shock of the day was the defeat of third seed Vijay Singh. Four down at the turn to Japan's Toru Taniguchi, the Fijian cut it to one, but lost on the last.Second Round Scores