Golf: Only Woods survives cull of world elite
While Woods plays on, against Stewart Cink in this morning's third round, David Duval lost to Bill Glasson and Vijay Singh, Nick Price and Justin Leonard also went the way of the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood on Wednesday. The next highest remaining seed after Woods is the No 12, Phil Mickelson, who defeated the double US Open champion, Lee Janzen.
"Wow," exclaimed Woods when told he was the only top-10 player left in the field. "But it doesn't surprise me. The field is so deep and anything can happen over 18 holes. To be in the field you have to be a quality player and you have to have won some tournaments. I was fortunate to squeak by in today's match."
Greg Norman must have had every expectation of progressing when he was three up with four to play against Eduardo Romero. But the Australian, whose long career is littered with examples of the art of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory, did so again.
Romero, who beat Westwood in the first round, won with a birdie two at the third extra hole, having let the Shark off the hook when Norman drove out of bounds at the 20th hole.
Leonard, who at one point had to hole a bunker shot to half a hole, lost 4 and 2 to Shigeki Maruyama, the Japanese player who was unbeaten in December's Presidents Cup. Singh came up against an unstoppable Bernhard Langer. The German was six under, and the fact that Singh only lost 2 and 1 shows the Fijian was also on his game.
Only four Europeans remain after seven others, including all five Britons, went home on Wednesday but Thomas Bjorn was the only casualty yesterday, the Dane losing 2 and 1 to Andrew Magee. If Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal, who beat Michael Bradley 2 and 1, are experienced Ryder Cup players, Patrik Sjoland is not. His victory at the last over Carlos Franco suggests he should be in the future.
Sjoland was three down with seven to play, but the quality of his approach play from there on was of the very highest order. He hit a seven-iron to 18 inches to win the 12th, a nine-iron to three feet to win the 15th, squared the match by holing from 20 feet at the 17th and hit a six-iron from 170 yards to less than a foot at the last.
"That stretch is definitely the best I have ever played," the 27-year- old Swede said. "I knew it would take my best golf ever over the last seven holes to win and I managed it."
Sjoland, who finished fifth on the European Order of Merit last season, added he was not feeling any jet-lag after travelling from Qatar, where he shot a 65 in the last round. As well as a guaranteed prize of pounds 46,875, he will also receive plenty of Ryder Cup qualifying points.
Langer, 41, has not won for almost a year and a half. He needed a par at the last to end the drought at the Greg Norman Holden International three weeks ago. But the German took a triple-bogey six after being in a bunker, chipping over the green and then calling a penalty shot on himself for picking up his marker on the green while replacing his ball. "It was one of those weird things," he said. "I can't explain it but it does come to mind once in a while when I go to mark my ball."
Having dismissed Brad Faxon in the first round, Langer had to cope with Singh birdies at the first two holes and then a remarkable recovery from a plugged lie in a bunker at the third. But Langer was only one down and squared the match at the fifth before making four birdies in a row, the one at the seventh for a half. Though the Fijian also birdied the par- three 11th to get back to the two down, Langer's 20-footer for an eagle at the 12th left him in control. "I would be pretty to have more days like this," the German said.
Langer plays Jeff Maggert, who beat Price at the last, in the third round with the winner possibly playing Woods in the quarter-finals. "I am not here to represent the Europeans," Langer said. "This is not a Ryder Cup thing. I am here to play the best I can for myself."
THIRD-ROUND PAIRINGS: T Woods v S Cink; B Langer (Ger) v J Maggert; S Pate v F Couples; E Romero (Arg) v P Mickelson; B Glasson v A Magee; L Roberts v S Maruyama (Japan); J M Olazabal (Sp) v S Jones; J Huston v P Sjoland (Swe).
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