Johannesburg – Doug McGuigan turned three-up, but had to fight hard to win, after top-seeded Darren Fichardt fought back during round five of the ISPS Handa SA Match Play Championship on Saturday.
McGuigan won the first quarter-final to book his place in the next round and said he was pleased to grab the victory at the Zwartkop Country Club.
“I’m just playing very consistent golf at the moment,” McGuigan said.
“In all of my games so far I’ve gone up early and stayed in play, and in match play that puts pressure on your opponent. So far it’s working.”
The 42-year-old, who ranked eighth heading into the R2-million tournament, faced his toughest match-up on Saturday, but managed to overcome the three-time European Tour winner 2&1.
“I was obviously happy to beat him,” said McGuigan.
“I would rank him as the top player out of the eight, not that there’s anything wrong with the other six guys, but he has more experience with his European career.
“To beat him is a good scalp.”
The turning point came when McGuigan sank a 15-foot putt from the fringe for a birdie, which put him one stroke ahead.
“It definitely swung a bit at 14. I let him off on the next hole, but that birdie beforehand just helped add pressure, because both of us were feeling it,” McGuigan added.
Earlier in the day he had opened at speed, taking a three-hole lead into the turn. But Fichardt fought back, showing his class in hot conditions.
“I just managed to stay calm and felt good the whole day. I haven’t made too many bogeys, so I decided to just get back into it,” McGuigan said.
In the second quarterfinal, Merrick Bremner advanced with a 3&2
win over Theunis Spangenberg.
“It was actually weird,” Bremner said.
“Neither of us actually made any bad mistakes until 12 when Theunis made bogey from the bunker.
“He made a birdie on three, and I eagled four. Then we halved every hole in par.
“I made a great up-and-down on 12 from the bunker. I made a clutch putt on the next for birdie after Theunis had hit it to tap-in. I birdied the next hole, and I hit it close on 16.”
Bremner had a 4&3 win in the opening round of the R2-million tournament, and then a pair of 1-up finishes took him into the round of 16.
There, he defeated Jared Harvey 3&2.
“The semi-final is the same as every round,” Bremner said.
“You just go out and do your best. But I enjoy match play. And the last time I played a match play tournament, I won it.”
In the third quarterfinal tie, Jaco Ahlers made two crucial putts on the back nine to play his way into the semi-finals, defeating Wallie Coetsee 3&1.
Having started with three birdies in a row to go 3-up, Ahlers said he was encouraged by his start earlier in the day.
“On 14, I made about a 12 or 15-footer for birdie after Wallie had got back to all-square,” Ahlers said.
“And then on 16, I made a four or five footer for birdie which got me two up with two to play.”
Ahlers, seeded eighth, had a bye in the first round, and then defeated JG Claassen 3&2 in the second round.
He had a big 5&3 win over Warren Abery in the third round, and in the round of 16, he had to fight hard to defeat Louis Moolman 1-up.
“Every day I’ve got off to a fast start,” said Ahlers.
“I’ve been up through five holes every day. It just gives you a bit of confidence and momentum because you can just play your own game.
“I hit the ball really well, and I hit the right shots at the right time on the back nine.”
In the last quarterfinal encounter, PH McIntyre sank a clutch eight-foot putt on the 18th hole to finish all-square with Steven Ferreira, before clinching the win on the first extra playoff hole.
“It’s the second time I’ve played 19 holes, and let me tell you it’s very stressful,” McIntyre said.
“It’s a nice experience and helps me to control it a bit better and be patient. Patience is everything in the world.”
The 26-year-old, who has made eight straight cuts on the Sunshine Tour, had a real battle with Ferreira, as the two only eight holes through the round.
“On 18 I just hoped for the best and luckily it went in. I’m exhausted,” McIntyre added.
“But I’m just playing for the enjoyment now, because I’ve made my target. To be in contention is awesome.”
Ferreira went 1-up early on with his win at the second hole, but McIntyre bit back with wins at the fourth, fifth and eighth holes.
“I had confidence, but he played very well and it was a nice tough game,” said McIntyre.
A win at the 10th would take McIntyre to 2-up, but Ferreira soon found his rhythm and won at 12, 15 and 17.
McIntyre and Ferreira both found greenside bunkers and were left with eight-footers for birdie, but only McIntyre found the nerve to sink.
They headed back to the first to begin all over again after the scores were level.
Within minutes, the Heidelberg Golf Club professional was left of the green in two, while Ferreira was on the back fringe in four.
After a comfortable chip and putt McIntyre took victory.
“On that last hole I just wanted to get it close and force him to make the fifth shot. I was very happy when it went in,” McIntyre said. – Sapa