Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge edged one step closer to defending his Seniors Tour match play title when he defeated England's Keith MacDonald by one hole in the quarter-finals of The Daily Telegraph/Turismo Andaluz European Seniors Match Play Championship at Los Famingos Golf Club near Marbella, Spain.
Cambridge goes forward to meet Ireland's Denis O'Sullivan in today's (Saturday's) semi-finals but only after having to battle all the way to overcome a brave MacDonald who birdied the 361 yard par four 17th to keep the match going but could only match Cambridge's par down the last.
"That was a fantastic match," said a relieved Cambridge at the end. "I reckon I was three under par for the last eight holes but I just couldn't shake Keith off. He battled magnificently. I'm just glad it worked out alright."
O'Sullivan was six under par for the 16 holes he needed to beat 2001 champion, Jim Rhodes, and move into the semi-finals for a second year in-a-row.
The 55 year-old former Irish amateur International from Cork went ahead for the first time when he birdied the 151 yard par three seventh. He doubled that advantage with a par on the 209 yard par three 11th before finishing off his opponent with a run of four consecutive birdies from the 13th.
"That was a great way to finish," confirmed O'Sullivan. "Last year, I would have to admit that I never got going in my semi-final against Eddie Polland but this year I think it's going to be different because my golf seems to have got better in each successive round. Delroy is going to be a difficult opponent but anything can happen in 18 holes of match play."
The other semi-final will be an all English affair between Denis Durnian and Carl Mason.
Durnian won the first two holes of his quarter-final against America's David Oakley and was seldom troubled after that. He moved further ahead when Oakley failed to get pars on the 11th and the 12th and then hit a glorious 7-iron to within 12-feet of the hole on the 165 yard par three 13th for what turned out to be to be the decisive birdie. The ended one hole later when Oakley conceded failing to secure a birdie.
Mason has been the tournament favourite since the draw was announced and he lived up to that billing with a fine performance in which he registered five birdies and dropped just one shot to par.
The current Senior Tour's No. 1 won the first two holes with a par and a birdie. He lost the par three third to a Ratcliffe birdie but then moved three in front with birdies of his own on the 405 yard par four fifth and the 150 yard par three seventh. Ratcliffe did pull one hole back when Mason dropped a shot on the ninth but two birdies on the 13th and the 15th got the Englishman back on track and Ratcliffe conceded when he failed to make a birdie on the 354 yard 16th hole.
"That birdie on the seventh might well have been the key moment in the whole match," said Mason. "Noel hit his tee shot into about six or seven feet but when I holed for a two from about 30 feet it seemed to unsettled him and he missed his."
"For the first few holes I struggled a bit to find my rhythm but after that I was OK,” added Mason. I'm just glad to be still in the draw. I haven't played any match play golf for about 15 or 16 years so it has taken me a while to adjust."