Good news day for the Big Easy

With the exception of South Africa's defeat by England in the Rugby World Cup, which cost him £200 in bets with friends and members of the press, everything went Ernie Els's way yesterday.

He was confirmed as the No 1 on the European Order of Merit, and his 5 and 4 victory over Vijay Singh in the semi-finals of the World Match Play here gives him the chance of winning the £1m first prize along with a record-tying fifth victory in the 40-year-old tournament.

His opponent today will be Thomas Bjorn, who finally defeated the Open champion Ben Curtis at the 36th hole. It was a tense final few holes, but they could not match the dramatic turnaround of the top match, in which Els won a record eight holes in a row to go from four down to four up.

The previous record for successive holes won was seven by Tony Lema against Gary Player, from the 11th to the 17th in the morning of their semi-final in 1965. It was the famous match in which Player, seven down after 19 holes, eventually won at the 37th in the biggest comeback the event has seen.

The South African went on to win the tournament that year, the first of his five victories, a record later equalled by Seve Ballesteros and one that Els will be trying to share today. Els and Singh have been two of the more consistent supporters of this tournament from outside Europe, and this was their fourth meeting. Els won the final in 1996 and their semi last year, with Singh winning in the 1997 final.

No doubt, as he had intimated, the celebrations for Els's 34th birthday the previous evening were thoroughly enjoyable. Singh certainly played the better golf on another sunny but chilly autumnal morning. Els was more scrappy than is usually the case, although his only dropped shots were at the 13th and the 15th. Unfortunately, following the latter, he was four down.

Els drove into a bunker at the 16th, but an exquisite eight-iron to three feet set in motion his record run. He birdied each of the last three holes of the morning, holing from 15 feet at the 17th and Singh missing from five feet at the last for a half.

One down at lunch, Els briefly watched the start of the rugby and then went to the practice range. His birdies at the short second and the par-five fourth kept the run going, but he was also helped by bogeys from Singh at the first, the third and the fifth. The Fijian managed to halve the sixth but immediately lost the seventh to be five down.

The quality of the match around the turn was terrific, with Singh birdieing the eighth and the 11th, and the 10th halved in birdies and the 12th in eagles, where both men were putting from four feet. But it was at the 10th that it became clear Els would not be denied. Singh chipped in for his two but then Els holed a putt from 27 feet for the half and had the good grace to smile sheepishly.

"I gave it a whack and it went in," Els said. "I had to stand my ground because Vijay was coming back, and I was really pleased with my second shot at the 12th to not lose that hole.

"I was trying to find a swing thought all morning and finally found a good feeling on the 18th tee, and I took that with me to the afternoon. I knew I had to try something because Vijay was really dominating me, but I don't know what he had for lunch because he seemed to lose his rhythm in the afternoon."

Els was confirmed as the Order of Merit winner when Darren Clarke pulled out of the Madrid Open. Clarke could have just pipped the South African with victories in that tournament and the Volvo Masters, but when Els let it be known he would play at Valderrama if he needed to, Clarke had to concede. Even last-place money there would leave Els out of reach.

Els and Bjorn are neighbours on the Wentworth estate, and although they rarely get the chance to play socially, their daughters are friends and go to the same school. Bjorn was four up after 15 holes, but in the "rematch" from Royal St George's last summer Curtis showed his fighting qualities to square the match at the 10th in the afternoon.

Bjorn had his wobbles, not least when he lost the 16th by driving so far into the trees that he was up against a garden fence. But when he found the green at the last in two and Curtis thinned his third out of a bunker, the American conceded.

The Dane has had to come through from the opening day, while Els had a bye on Thursday. "Today was always going to be the tough day and I did get tired," Bjorn said. "Tomorrow I'm sure adren-alin will get me through.

"I'm up against the star of the field and a friend of mine, and I'm under no illusion about how difficult it will be, especially if Ernie plays as he did today."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments