Graeme McDowell's hopes of going to third in the world suffered a blow when he lost to YE Yang in the last 16 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Resort.
The Ulsterman (31) went down by 3&2 to the 2009 US PGA champion in a scrappy encounter and will now have to wait and see if England's Luke Donald can deny him the No 3 ranking by winning the tournament tomorrow.
McDowell's rustiness after a four-week break showed against Yang in a match where he was never in front. All square with five to play, McDowell's short game let him down at the 14th before Yang drove the 15th to set up a winning birdie and take a crucial two-up lead.
Any hopes McDowell might have had of mounting a comeback ended at the par-three 16th, where he bunkered his tee shot and Yang chipped in for a winning birdie two.
Having dodged a bullet at the first, where the Korean lipped out from seven feet for the win, McDowell survived again at the par-five second when he hit a superb, 25-yard bunker shot to five feet and holed the birdie putt to remain all square.
Yang eventually edged in front with a birdie at the par-three third.
The South Korean doubled his advantage at the fourth with a wedge to five feet before handing back a hole at the next where he failed to get up and down from greenside sand.
McDowell was still struggling to find his swing and he immediately handed the momentum back by bogeying the 165-yard sixth with a ballooned tee shot into the front bunker.
It looked like being a long afternoon for the Portrush star when he missed a three-and-a-half footer for a win in birdie at the par-five eighth.
But a birdie from 13 feet at the ninth saw him turn just one down and it was soon all square when Yang took a double-bogey six at the par-four 10th.
Yang won a pitch-and-putt battle to edge ahead again at the par-five 11th but McDowell's match play DNA kicked in at the 12th, where Yang bogeyed after overshooting the green.
Yang bravely holed a 10-footer for a half in birdie fours at the next to remain all square but edged a vital hole in front at the 14th.
Yang will face Matt Kuchar in this morning's quarter-finals following the American's 2&1 win over youngster Rickie Fowler, who had humbled Phil Mickelson 6&5 in round two.
The semi-finals, originally scheduled for tomorrow morning, have been brought forward to today due to a Sunday weather forecast of heavy rain and maximum temperatures of just 9C.
The consolation match will be played from 7.0 Irish time tomorrow evening with the final to tee off at 7.15.
Big-hitting Bubba Watson caused an upset when he battered Padraig Harrington's nemesis, two-time winner Geoff Ogilvy, 6&4. "Bubba did good today," said Watson, who has played just 43 holes in his three matches so far this week.
Accenture Match Play Championship,
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