Graeme McDowell's luck finally runs out in Tuscon
Published 23/02/2014 | 10:53
Graeme McDowell's brilliant run in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship finally came to an end on Saturday as Victor Dubuisson booked his place in the semi-finals - and with it a likely Ryder Cup debut.
McDowell had played 58 holes to reach the quarter-finals and had remarkably never stood on any tee with the lead, producing miraculous comebacks to edge past Gary Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama and Hunter Mahan.
And although the former US Open champion needed just two holes to finally get his nose in front against Dubuisson, the Frenchman fought back superbly and after taking the lead for the third time on the 16th - McDowell three-putted it for the second day running - held onto it with brilliant par saves on the last two holes.
"It was a great day," said Dubuisson, who is guaranteed US dollars 510,000 for reaching the last four to add to his winnings from the Turkish Airlines Open at the end of last season.
The 23-year-old is now all but assured of making Paul McGinley's European team for Gleneagles and added: "The key was my short game. I have been really practising hard here from the high rough and at the end it paid off because my chip on 17 was unplayable but I managed to make a good up and down."
Another up and down on the last left McDowell with a birdie putt to force extra holes, but for once the Northern Irishman was not able to hole the vital putt.
Dubuisson will play Ernie Els in the last four, the seven-time Volvo World Match Play champion beating a demoralised Jordan Spieth 4&2.
Spieth admitted he was "embarrassed" at his behaviour on the course as he looked out of sorts throughout, but commendably admitted his failings just minutes after the match had ended.
"I didn't have my stuff today but at the same time, mentally I didn't handle it very well," said the 20-year-old, who was the PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2013. "Wanting it so bad I just didn't let things happen and you can't show weakness to Ernie, he's going to take advantage of it and that's what I did today.
"I was dropping clubs; I played a round like I was 14 years old and you can't do that on this level. I'll look back and learn from it."
Els, at 44 looking to become the oldest winner of the event, admitted he had taken full advantage of Spieth's meltdown, adding: "I was also young once.
"I could see he was a little frustrated because he wasn't quite playing the way he played the rest of the week and that happens, under pressure you have to adapt. He's going to learn it's not always going to be rosy and nice, sometimes you're going to have to work for it."
In the other half of the draw, Australia's Jason Day beat an ailing Louis Oosthuizen to set up a semi-final with Rickie Fowler, who came through a rollercoaster clash with compatriot Jim Furyk.
Oosthuizen received lengthy treatment for a back injury before play started and needed more out on the course before eventually losing 2&1 to Day, who reached the last four for the second year running.
"I was disappointed to start on the range this morning not feeling too good," former Open champion Oosthuizen said. "It got better, the last four or five holes I felt I could get through the ball better. It's a bit painful that it always happens when I'm playing well and I need to address it big time and get it sorted.
"I felt I played really well but you can't give away holes to a guy like Jason. I had a tough start and it was really tough to get back from that."
Fowler looked to be cruising to victory when he was three up with six holes to play, only for Furyk to birdie the 13th, 14th and 15th and then take the lead with a par on the 16th.
However, Furyk then bogeyed the last two holes - as he did at Medinah in 2012 to lose his crucial Ryder Cup singles match to Sergio Garcia - including a fluffed chip on the 18th, to gift Fowler the victory.
"I just had to try and stay patient," Fowler said of going behind on the 16th. "I had to make two pars but tough pars in the situation. It was unfortunate to see Jim hit the chip the way he did on the last hole. I really thought he was going to hit one up there like he did on the second one."