England's drought in the Accenture World Match Play continued here in the Arizona desert yesterday as Paul Casey was beaten 4&3 by the Australian Geoff Ogilvy. The scoreline suggested that the 36-hole final had been closely fought, but, in truth, it flattered Casey, who came up against an inspired opponent.
When his mini-fight back from being six down with nine remaining was eventually snuffed out on the 33rd hole, Ogilvy was 12-under. There were no bogeys on the two scorecards; in fact he took just one bogey in his last 66 holes. "The whole weekend I played great," said Ogilvy. That was a grotesaque understatement.
Put simply, Ogilvy never allowed his Scottsdale neighbour a blow. Casey, himself, was eight-under for the day and had his moments, particularly on the 10th when he holed a six-iron from 204 yards for an eagle two. Unfortunately for him, Ogilvy's magic came at more frequent intervals. "I threw a lot at him but he didn't flinch," said Casey. "Geoff was very, very impressive."
If one hole summed it up it was the eighth in the afternoon. Casey managed a birdie on the 582-yard par five, but that was not nearly good enough. Ogilvy hit a five wood from around 250 yards to a few feet for an eagle. Cruel.
The £1m success took Ogilvy up to fourth in the world, although he can justifiably call himself the best matchplay practitioner in the world. This was his third Accenture final in four appearances and the double champion's record in the event now reads played 19, won 17. That makes for a staggering strike-rate in this notoriously unpredictable format.
For Casey the disappointment of missing out on his first American title was tempered somewhat by the £600,000 second prize, as well as his progression up to 13th in the world. He can take great pride from his display here. As can England as a whole. The wait might go on for a World Golf Championship title, but this was the best attempt yet. Ross Fisher also reached the semi-final stage, claiming such notable scalps as Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard along the way. Yesterday, Fisher lost on the 18th in third and fourth place play-off to Stewart Cink, but still collected £350,000.
There was more to take away than all that, however. The confidence Fisher and his compatriots have garnered from a week which was supposed to be all about the Tiger Woods comeback will surely prove priceless. Of the seven entrants in the 64-man field, five Englishman made it through to the last 16. The one worrying aspect was the wrist injury suffered by Luke Donald. He was so concerned he rushed to New York to see the surgeon who had performed the operation to repair a torn tendon last summer. The medic had good news; the discomfort was caused only by scar tissue. Donald will resume practising today and may even play in this week's Honda Classic.
If he does, Donald will find Rory McIlroy there; the 19-year-old from Ulster who became the darling of America when progressing to the quarter-final on his first professional outing on US soil. McIlroy hitched a ride to Florida on Saturday night on Els's private jet. He is most definitely flying with the big boys. "Remember the name," said Ogilvy about his quarter-final victim. "Rory McIlroy is going to be one of the best players in the world for years to come."