Begay's late charge fails to disrupt Monty's day

*

THE BEWITCHING hour for Colin Montgomerie is 7am on Monday morning, when the dentist will remove his infected tooth. Winning the World Match Play Championship for the first time would be all the anaesthetic the Scot will need, and yesterday he survived a late comeback from the Native American Notah Begay III to move into today's semi-finals.

THE BEWITCHING hour for Colin Montgomerie is 7am on Monday morning, when the dentist will remove his infected tooth. Winning the World Match Play Championship for the first time would be all the anaesthetic the Scot will need, and yesterday he survived a late comeback from the Native American Notah Begay III to move into today's semi-finals.

But Monty will not have to face his nemesis, Ernie Els, the man who beat him in the 1994 final, as the South African lost at the second extra hole to Padraig Harrington.

The 28-year-old Irishman was one down with three to play but squared the match by holing from seven feet at the 16th and then sealed victory against the three-times former winner by holing from a similar position on the second green. Mark O'Meara and Nick Price will contest the other semi-final.

On another day of sparkling golf to match the immaculate West Course and the fine autumnal weather, Begay, the world No 99, started well to be four under, and three up, after the 7th. But by lunchtime, Montgomerie had responded in style to go one up after a round of 65. His lead had increased to three up with five to play before Begay, who putts both right and left-handed to always give himself a right-to-left break, holed from 16 feet at the 14th and 12 feet at the next to get back to one down.

Despite a wait on the 17th tee as the O'Meara-Craig Parry match went into extra holes, a birdie from the Scot gave him a 2 and 1 victory. "I heard Mark and Craig had gone into extra holes, but I didn't realise they were ours," Monty said of the delay.

Montgomerie knows all about the potential for being embarrassed by a lowly ranked player in the opening rounds at Wentworth and was once taken to the 37th hole by Japan's Yoshinori Mizumaki. "Notah is a nice guy, a good player and has a very bright future ahead of him," Montgomerie said. "To be 11 under is very satisfying. There are no easy games here."

O'Meara finally shrugged off the challenge of Parry, as gritty an Aussie battler as they come, at the 39th hole by chipping-in from 14 feet. Parry had already bogeyed the hole, but O'Meara had himself just pitched over the green.

The defending champion, who had hardly hit a ball for two days, had the chance to win at the 36th before missing from four feet as each player three-putted. So convinced was Parry, who was 10 under for the day, that the end had come, he had already shaken hands and commiserated with his caddie, but O'Meara misread the putt.

After refreshingly speedy round in the morning in just under three hours, both men had reason to be delighted with play but just a little disgruntled about the state of the match. To shoot a 66, as Parry did, and be three down is as equally confusing as scoring a 63 and only being three ahead. O'Meara had 10 single putts. "It is amazing what happens when your expectations aren't very high," said the American.

"I just went out to play a few holes and see what happened. The key was realising I didn't really know where the ball was going and swinging only at 70 per cent. I went to the physio at lunch and he popped it back. It wasn't perfect this afternoon, but it was easier to play."

O'Meara and Parry halved the opening hole in birdie threes, only the second time that had happened in 36 years of the event. The third time occurred later on in the afternoon, during the Price-Retief Goosen match.

Only two players have ever scored better than Price's 13 under and Goosen, the vanquisher of Sergio Garcia in the first round, was himself eight under despite losing 6 and 5. The Zimbabwean returned to a face-balanced putter two months ago, during which time he has won in Japan and shown signs of recovering the putting touch he enjoyed in his prime.

"I have not putted like that for a long time," Price, 42, said. "My putting has been in the doldrums since 1994. If I could putt like this for just two more years, I'd be a happy camper."

Price admitted he had done far worse things on a golf course than Garcia's shoe-kicking incident on Thursday. "But not on television, though," he added.

David Garland, director of operations for the European Tour, said he wanted to talk to Garcia about the incident before considering whether a warning or a fine will be necessary. "Sergio has to understand he is a role model," Price said. "Tiger has calmed down a bit but occasionally slams his club into the ground. We all do, but someone like that has to be more careful.

"Sergio has got a lot of learning to do, and if he learns well, he will be an unbelievable player by the age of 25. He's got all the key ingredients to be a superstar."

CISCO WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP (Wentworth, Surrey) Quarter-finals: N Price (Zim) bt R Goosen (SA) 6 and 5; M O'Meara (US) bt C Parry (Aus) at 39th; C Montgomerie (GB) bt N Begay (USA) 2 and 1; P Harrington (Irl) bt E Els (SA) at 38th.

Semi-final draw and tee-off times: 0830 and 1245 M O'Meara (US) v N Price (Zim); 0845 and 1300 P Harrington (Irl) v C Montgomerie (GB).

* Denmark's Thomas Bjorn overcame the twin hazards of fog and lightning lead after the second round of the Sarazen World Open in Girona, Spain.

His round of 69 for a total of 135 was good enough for a one-shot lead over his compatriot Steen Tinning, who carded a 67, and France's Thomas Levet, who posted a second successive 68.

The English duo Miles Tunnicliff and Peter Mitchell were a stroke further back on seven under par after managing to complete their rounds before menacing skies brought play to a halt.

Should the weather fail to improve overnight, the players face the prospect of the tournament being reduced to 54 holes.

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