Youth will meet experience in the 36 hole final of the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play at La Costa Resort & Spa when tournament debutant Geoff Ogilvy of Australia goes head to head with American veteran Davis Love III in the battle for the €1,091,886 first prize.
Both booked their places in the showdown after relatively comfortable semi-final assignments, Ogilvy seeing off US Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman 4 and 3, while Love – who lost to Tiger Woods in the 2004 final - accounted for his young compatriot Zach Johnson 4 and 2.
Earlier in the day, both had played their part in ending European Tour hopes of crowning a winner, Ogilvy beating England’s David Howell on the 19th green of their quarter-final tie while Love beat Ireland’s Padraig Harrington by one hole. The quarter-final disappointment for The European Tour contingent was completed when Johnson beat Retief Goosen 3 and 2.
In many respects, the defeat of Howell was the most disappointing for The European Tour contingent in Carlsbad, particularly as the Englishman had battled his way back into the match to grab the lead in the latter stages.
Despite Ogilvy’s erratic form off the tee for the majority of the contest, some sublime scrambling, allied to Howell’s inability to capitalise on any of his chances, saw the Australian hold a one hole lead through the tenth.
Howell eventually levelled matters on the 11th with a birdie four and from there on, seemed to find the putting touch which had deserted him in the early stages. He holed a 15 footer for a half in birdie three at the 13th, an identical putt at the 15th to keep the match level and then from 20 feet at the short 16th for a birdie two to move ahead for the first time.
The European Ryder Cup player had a chance to win the match at the 17th but missed from 12 feet before Ogilvy took the match into extra holes with a crucial birdie four at the 18th. It was to prove to be vital as, moments later on the first extra hole, Ogilvy rolled in a 20 foot putt for a winning birdie – his fourth consecutive victory in extra holes in this year’s event.
“I’ve had a good week and I obviously did better than I did last year but it is still disappointing because at one up with two to go, or one up with one to go, you have to fancy your chances,” said Howell. “I played nice on the back nine, but didn’t play well on the front nine – that’s the way it goes.
“The thing is, there is no-one out there at the moment that I feel I couldn’t beat. All the big guns are gone. Obviously the other guys are playing well but I did fancy my chances against anyone left in the draw. But fair play to Geoff, he was always going to be a tough match.”
At the same time as Howell was going out on the first extra hole, Harrington was exiting in dramatic fashion on the adjacent 18th. Three down in the early stages to Love, the Irishman kept plugging away and indeed, when Love bogeyed the 17th, incredibly, the match was back to all square.
But Harrington could do nothing about the way Love ended the match. Having laid up short of the green in two, the 41 year old former US PGA Champion proceed to hole his pitching wedge approach from 112 yards for an audacious eagle three.
“If you’re going to lose, I suppose that’s as good a way as any,” said a philosophical Harrington. “I was mentally prepared for Davis to get up and down from where he was and for me to hole mine and for us to go to the 19th. But I wasn’t prepared for that.
“I feel I played a little better today but what has been going wrong with my game over the past couple of days is my short game. When I struggled early on, I didn’t get up and down. Davis was playing very well and it is hard to give him three holes and expect to win.”
The curtain came down on The European Tour challenge when Goosen, who had birdied the first two holes to take an early two hole lead, was pegged back by 29 year old Zach Johnson, the American Ryder Cup hopeful carding six birdies in total in the 16 holes, although a par three was enough to win the 16th hole and the match as Goosen pushed his tee shot right of the green and failed to get up and down.
“When I made the birdies on the first couple of holes I thought I might finally be starting to make some putts because I haven’t done anything on the greens all week here,” said Goosen. “But though I tried hard after that, nothing went in.
“But these things happen. Putting is the way you win match play matches and Zach putted very well today, he made a lot of good putts, and that is why I lost.”
In the first semi-final, Love’s experience quickly took its toll on Johnson. All square after seven, the 41 year old American holed back-to-back 15 foot birdie putts on the eighth and ninth holes to open up a lead he was never to relinquish.
Three pars saw the next three holes halved before another two birdies in a row – at the 13th and 14th – moved Love four up with four to play and although Johnson prolonged the encounter with a birdie at the 15th, he conceded Love’s birdie putt and the match soon afterwards on the green at the 16th.
“Zach didn’t put too much pressure on me today to be honest but I kept putting the ball in the fairway which helped,” said Love. “If ever I was in trouble, my pitching wedge was pretty good and I holed a couple of important 15 to 20 footers as well which helped too.”
In the second semi-final, Ogilvy took control early against Lehman and birdies at the fourth, fifth and eighth saw the 28 year old Australian three up. Indeed, when Lehman missed the green at the ninth to make bogey five, Ogilvy turned for home four up.
The winner of the 1996 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes rallied briefly on the back nine when he took the 12th and 13th, but any hopes of a sustained recovery disappeared when Ogilvy birdied the 14th to regain a three hole advantage. The match was over at the next hole when Lehman bunkered his approach shot and made bogey five.
“This afternoon was the best I have played all week and I’m glad I didn’t have to go to any more extra holes,” said Ogilvy. “It was nice to get it done right here on the 15th green outside the clubhouse.
“I have been playing well all week and had a nice bit of form coming in. My first opponent – Michael Campbell - was the last guy to beat me in match play and my next opponent – Nick O’Hern – is another Aussie so there was some nice motivation in both those ties. That gave me a little bit of momentum and I took it on from there.”
The final will tee off at 7.30am and 11.45am local time with the Third and Fourth place match between Johnson and Lehman teeing off at 11.35am.