A quartet of English players led The European Tour challenge as the possibility of a European following Darren Clarke and Henrik Stenson and winning the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play increased coming towards the end of the second round at Dove Mountain, Tucson, Arizona.
A record 47 of the 64 man field are Members of The European Tour and within that there is a strong English challenge with four of the last 16 coming from England. Oliver Wilson, Paul Casey, Ross Fisher and Luke Donald all completed victories to move into the third round.
Ross Fisher looked commanding in sealing victory over Pat Perez inside 13 holes. The Englishman got to within 12 feet on the par five 13th and then confidently stroked the putt home for eagle and a 6 and 5 victory having been five up at the turn.
After his victory Fisher was asked about the success of the English contingent and The European Tour this week.
Fisher said: “It's great for European golf, and obviously it's great for English golf. We've got some really good youngsters coming through, as well, that aren't here this week. They're playing on The European Tour. I think the future is very bright, not only for European golf but for English and British golf.”
Commenting on his victory over Perez, Fisher said: “Obviously playing a guy like Pat, he's in good form, and he's won recently. To beat Padraig [Harrington], he's definitely on form. Fortunately for me he was a little bit off, and I was bang on form. It was quite a sweet victory, I think. Very pleased.”
Camilo Villegas stormed through to the last 16 in emphatic style with a 5 and 4 victory over fellow European Tour Member Miguel Angel Jiménez.
Similarly Paul Casey was in awesome form as he cruised into the third round with a 6 and 4 victory over the Australian Matthew Goggin.
Casey said: “It didn't seem that easy. I think the score lies a little bit. It felt like a tougher match than 6 and 4.”
Lee Westwood and Stewart Cink could hardly be separated in a gruelling encounter. It took five play-off holes for last years runner up, Stewart Cink, to finally see off the challenge of the Worksop golfer in a match that neither deserved to lose.
Westwood said: “He just got up and down on nearly every hole. He only hit seven greens in regulation and when it is hard to make birdies round this place with the undulations on the greens so any time you get someone like that who gets up and down from everywhere and keeps making putts for halves it is going to be tough.”
Oliver Wilson produced a shock result when he held his nerve to see out the win 2 and 1 against Anthony Kim and confirm his steely nerve that was evident in his Ryder Cup performances last September.
Asked whether his winning experience when partnered with Henrik Stenson against Anthony Kim and Phil Mickelson at Valhalla had helped, Wilson said: “Yeah, two good wins. He's a great player, and obviously The Ryder Cup I think maybe helped me a little bit, knowing that I've already beat him before. So I went out there just trying to play well and managed to do that, but it was a very tough match.”
Shingo Katayama and Geoff Ogilvy fought a tough battle and after 18 holes were equal forcing an extra hole that Ogilvy won to claim victory.
Peter Hanson completed a fine victory over Stephen Ames, it was nip and tuck throughout, but the Swede always just about had the edge.
Vijay Singh and Luke Donald were trading blows until the 14th but Singh pressed down on the accelerator to win the 15th and 16th. The Fijian was seemingly on his way to victory only for Donald to find what was needed to win the 17th and 18th and take the match to a play-off which the Englishman won on the first extra hole.
A relieved Donald - who missed most of 2008 with a wrist injury - said: “My wife keeps telling me ‘Can’t you just win on the 12th or 13th one of these days?’ to make it easier on her heart.
“I was just pleased to take it into extra holes after being two down with two to play but feel I just snatched this one out of nowhere.”
Ernie Els closed out the match against Steve Stricker on the 16th green winning 3 and 2 and the South African was always in control.
Jim Furyk turned the screw on Martin Kaymer to win 4 and 2 and the American is looking like he will be a dangerous opponent for Fisher in the last 16.
Justin Leonard claimed a tight victory over compatriot Davis Love III to win one up on the final hole and set up a third round encounter with Wilson.
Tiger Woods lost to Tim Clark in a match that produced enough signs that Woods has not lost any of his ability.
South African Clark played excellent golf in his round but Woods produced an immaculate shot from the sand at the 14th, holing out a difficult shot from 55 yards to give himself a chance. But Clark held his nerve to win 4 and 2.