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Friday, 25 February 2011
Luke Donald   (Getty Images)
Luke Donald (Getty Images)

Luke Donald's bid to keep the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship trophy in English hands is still alive after another superb display in Tucson.

Donald, trying to emulate Ian Poulter, has yet to trail all week and reached the quarter-finals with a 3 and 2 victory over rising star Matteo Manassero.

The 17 year old Italian is the youngest player ever to compete in the event and was on a real high after knocking out Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel.

But the 2009 British Amateur Champion, already a European Tour winner in his nine month old professional career, found Donald a much tougher proposition.

And now Donald, if he can go all the way and end five years without a win in America, will move to third in the Official World Golf Ranking behind Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer – with Graeme McDowell fourth.

Europe has not been able to boast such a situation since 1992 through Ian Woosnam, Sir Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazábal and Seve Ballesteros.

Manassero could not match the 33 year old's birdies at the first and fourth, bogeyed the next and then saw his opponent fire in his approach to three feet at the seventh.

Ninth seed Donald did lose the long eighth, but his response was immediate – a 20 footer for another birdie at the next and then a par on the tenth to go five up despite driving into a greenside bunker.

Manassero chipped in for eagle at the 13th and birdied the 15th to take that as well, but Donald clinched his first last eight spot in seven attempts on the next.

Donald said: "I just played nicely throughout the bag really. Five birdies, no bogeys - I made Matteo work for it.

"I worked hard in the off season and it's nice to see it paying off."

For his part, Manassero graciously paid tribute to the victor, labelling Donald the favourite to go on and lift the trophy.

He said: “He didn't miss a shot.  He didn't make a bogey.  And when he was missing shots, he was recovering.  He's doing every single thing in the right way.”

McDowell has still to make the quarter-finals in his career after going out to Korean Y E Yang.

Northern Ireland's US Open Champion had come from behind in his first two games and threatened to do the same when he took the ninth and tenth to level.

But Yang, the player who beat Tiger Woods head-to-head in the 2009 US PGA Championship, went away from him again and sealed victory with a chip-in birdie at the 16th.

McDowell said: “He played solid golf.  He was a tough man to beat today and to be brutally honest, I was frustrated with my game all week.  I hit a lot of average shots for me.  Bizarrely, today was probably the best I felt. 

“I hit some decent shots today.  I just couldn't quite get the job done. But that's the way this week goes, really.  Some days you play alright and run into a guy that plays great.  I would have had to be on my game to beat him.”

Biggest win of the day went to 47 year old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, 7 and 6 over Ben Crane a day after the American had crushed Rory McIlroy 8 and 7.

Jiménez, trying to become the oldest winner of the title by ten years, won the opening four holes, three of them with birdies, and never looked back.

He said: “I'm playing well, I'm hitting it good. I have a feeling, you know, when I'm playing well, I'm not afraid of anything – or anyone.”

Jiménez will play Ryder Cup team-mate Kaymer next after the German came from two down after 12 to beat Mahan 2 and 1.

Because of a bad weather forecast for Sunday morning, the schedule for the event has been changed so both the quarter-finals and semi-finals will now be played tomorrow.

The quarter-finals will start at 7.10am local time (1410 GMT) and the semis at 11.45am (1845 GMT). The final, 18 holes for the first time this year, will then tee off at 12.15pm Sunday (1915 GMT) if conditions permit.
 
“Hopefully it's going to be a long day, and I can play two matches,” said Kaymer, who needs to reach Sunday's final to replace Westwood as World Number One.
 
“If it's getting cold, it's fine for me, I'm European. I’m playing against another European, but he's from Spain, I might have an advantage there. We play match play, if we were to play stroke play, you hope you get on the good side of the draw. But in match play it doesn't really matter.”

Donald was kept waiting to discover his opponent, as Nick Watney birdied the 17th and 18th to draw level with fellow American Ryan Moore.

Moore won through to take on Donald with a 12 foot birdie putt on the first extra hole.

 

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