Just as in The Ryder Cup, Colin Montgomerie continued to be the scourge of the Americans as he led the European charge into the last 16 of the WGC – Accenture Match Play at The Gallery Golf Club in Tucson.
After dispatching Jim Furyk in Wednesday’s first round, the 44 year old put paid to the hopes of Furyk’s fellow countryman Charles Howell III on the final green of an enthralling contest to move into the third round where he will face his third American of the week, Stewart Cink, the conqueror of Open Champion Padraig Harrington in round two.
For a while it looked like Montgomerie himself might be in trouble when he reached the 13th hole one down but then produced sparkling golf to turn the match around.
A superb six iron tee shot to three feet on the short 14th levelled the match before he rolled in a 25 footer for birdie at the 15th to move one up, an advantage he held onto down the stretch before closing out the match on the home green.
“He was a very tough opponent and someone that hits the ball a lot longer than me so you have to factor that into the match as well,” said Montgomerie. “But I’m delighted with the win.
“When I lost the 13th hole to go one down, my caddie Jason said to me on the 14th tee, ‘Right Mr Montgomerie, it’s Ryder Cup mode now’ and I was four under par from then on in so that was a good effort. I needed that. That was good.”
The Scot was joined in the last 16 by four other European Tour Members, England’s Paul Casey, Fiji’s Vijay Singh, US Open Champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina and defending champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
Casey produced the best golf of the first round to dispatch Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, being nine under par for his 18 holes, but showed the vagaries of match play golf perfectly in his second round tie, being only one under par for 17 holes to see off Welshman Bradley Dredge 2 and 1.
“I feel lucky to have come through because that wasn’t my best golf and it certainly wasn’t Bradley’s either,” he said. “It was a scrappy game but sometimes that’s the way it goes. But we move on and I’m going to have to play better golf in the next round if I want to progress.”
In that next round the Englishman will face the dogged Korean KJ Choi who ended Ian Poulter’s brave fightback with victory on the first extra hole after Poulter had clawed back a late three hole deficit by winning the 15th, 17th and 18th holes.
Angel Cabrera and Vijay Singh were also made to battle hard by their fellow European Tour Members Luke Donald and Niclas Fasth before notching respective 2 and 1 and one hole victories. Now, in the last 16, Cabrera will face American Steve Stricker while Singh will play Australian Rod Pampling.
Completing The European Tour contingent in the last 16 was defending champion Henrik Stenson who eventually came out on top on the 25th hole of a titanic struggle against South African Trevor Immelman.
Up all the way in the match since his birdie at the first hole, the Swede could not shake off Immelman and the gritty South African levelled the match at the 16th hole to force extra time.
Six holes came and went before the contest ended in dramatic fashion at the 307 yard, par four seventh hole.
A superb tee shot from the South African saw him find the centre of the green and with Stenson’s tee shot in the bunker, Immelman looked a strong favourite to progress. But, showing the topsy turvy nature of match play, the Swede played a superb bunker shot to within two feet of the hole to make birdie three as Immelman three putted to bow out.
The defending champion will now face the rampant Jonathan Byrd in round three, the American following up his opening day 6 and 5 thrashing of Ernie Els with a 6 and 4 beating of Argentina’s Andres Romero.
Completing the last 16 line-up will be the all-American clash of Woody Austin versus Boo Weekley, World Number One Tiger Woods against Australian Aaron Baddeley – who enjoyed a walk-over after David Toms withdrew with a back injury – and another America/Australia clash with Justin Leonard facing up to Stuart Appleby, who ousted the Number Two seed Phil Mickelson by 2 and 1.