Foreign power leaves Casey a solitary figure

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The Independent Online

Paul Casey, the defending champion, is the sole remaining home hope in today's quarter-finals at the HSBC World Match championship here. Casey extended his perfect record in the competition to played five, won five even though he had to play more golf in his 3 and 2 victory over Jerry Kelly than in any of his matches last year.

But elsewhere there was disappointment for the Wentworth gallery. Justin Rose, just installed as the leading British player on the world rankings, never found his putting boots and was knocked out 5 and 4 by the 25-year-old American Hunter Mahan.

It was an even heavier defeat for Colin Montgomerie, who lost for the third time in a row when facing his nemesis Ernie Els in this competition. As was the pattern in their previous two matches, Monty was never ahead and went down 6 and 5. "It was tough for both of us to play each other so early in the tournament," said Els. "I'm glad I'm through but it's sad to see Colin go out in the first round."

To complete an unwelcome hat-trick, Padraig Harrington, the Open champion from Ireland, was defeated 4 and 2 by Denmark's Anders Hansen. In fact, there are more Danes called Hansen through to the second round than locals given that Soren Hansen (no relation) beat South African Rory Sabbatini 4 and 3.

Fog delayed play for almost two hours in the morning before giving way to a glorious autumnal afternoon, but it was a battle to complete 36 holes before darkness.

Montgomerie is never at his best when left to stew over things and whether the Scot knew of Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo's censure or not, he did not exactly play as if he was in blissful ignorance.

Faldo was the captain of the Great Britain and Ireland team at the recent Seve Trophy and yesterday expressed his "disappointment" with the fact that Monty failed to attend three of the five team meetings during the week and also had to be enticed out on to the 18th green to support his team-mates.

From the moment Montgomerie bogeyed the first hole of the morning, he reverted to his frustrated, and frustrating, old self. He immediately got on level terms by holing from 25 feet at the second but Els was three up at the turn and won the 17th and 18th to get to five ahead.

After a short lunch, Montgomerie won the first in the afternoon but then lost three holes in a row to go seven down and there was no way back.

Els, who has a ticket for the South Africa-Argentina rugby semi-final on Sunday night in Paris, was round in a 66 in the morning, a score only bettered by Angel Cabrera, who won the battle of the US Open champions against Retief Goosen 6 and 5.

Cabrera had a 65 with seven birdies and then added four more in the afternoon. Casey was not so happy with his game and admitted it would have to improve when he faces the Argentine today.

"I played all right in the morning but there was a spell in the afternoon where I was hitting it sideways," said Casey, who found three ditches in seven holes at one point. "I feel very fortunate to get through. Jerry could have taken the match further."

Cabrera said: "I played a great game today. Everything felt very good and I always love being here at Wentworth. From the moment I stepped on the first tee and hit my first shot down the middle I felt good."

Like Montgomerie, Harrington could never get ahead of his opponent. Harrington admitted the more consistent he has become in strokeplay the less he has been able to make dramatic things happen at matchplay as he did in his amateur days.

"You could tell Padraig was trying to press to catch up and made mistakes, which helped me," said Anders Hansen, who continues his love affair with Wentworth after twice winning the PGA here.

HSBC World Match Play (Wentworth) Early first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): P Casey bt J Kelly (US) 3 and 2; A Cabrera (Arg) bt R Goosen (SA) 6 and 5; H Mahan (US) bt J Rose 5 and 4; S Hansen (Den) bt R Sabbatini (SA) 4 and 3; P Harrington lost to A Hansen (Den) 4 and 2; E Els (SA) bt C Montgomerie 6 and 5.

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