Goosen skims through rain to secure record victory

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Retief Goosen was the only player to book his place in the quarter-finals of the HSBC World Match Play here yesterday but it took a record margin of victory for the South African to be in such a luxurious overnight position. All of the other seven first-round matches will resume this morning at 8am after an early storm delayed the start yesterday.

It was perhaps inevitable that the elements would interfere after the decision was taken to expand the field to 16 players. It meant Ernie Els, the defending champion, having to play in the first round for the first time in 11 appearances.

He trailed to Scott Drummond until the 20th hole before easing ahead but, at two-up with two to play, will still have to return this morning. Others will have more work to do, notably Vijay Singh, the world No 1, who is two-down to Bernhard Langer with 10 holes to play.

Goosen, the US Open champion, was the first back to the clubhouse as the watery sunshine of the afternoon turned back to rain thanks to a 12 and 11 win over Jeff Maggert.

Goosen injured his pelvis earlier in the season in a jet ski accident but, given the considerable surface water, he appeared to be powered by such a machine. Maggert won the 18-hole version of the World Match Play at La Costa in its first year in 1999, but qualified to play here for the first time by finishing third in the US Open. His recent golf has been restricted by the birth of his twins and he did not win a single hole.

Six bogeys in the first nine holes handed Goosen a six-up lead and, having beaten Maggert at Shinnecock Hills, the South African was always going to win. His first 18 holes amounted to an approximate round of 65 and he was 10-up, matching the record lunchtime margin set by Tom Watson against Dale Hayes in 1978 and equalled by Mark O'Meara against Singh 20 years later.

At the short second hole, Goosen hit an eight-iron to seven feet for his first birdie in the morning and then, at the same hole in the afternoon, hit the same club even closer, holing from four feet to go 11-up. When he holed a putt from off the green at the seventh he beat O'Meara's record 11 and 10 win over Singh.

"I felt like I was going to win, it was just by how much," Goosen said. "Jeff was not at his best and I tried to stay focused." He now aims to get through the quarter-finals for the first time.

Drummond, who won the PGA here in May but lies 118th on the world rankings, won the first hole when Els bogeyed and was either one or two-up for the first 19 holes. But at the second Els holed from six feet to draw level and then at the next, with Drummond in trouble, birdied again to take the lead.

It was at the fourth that Els' superiority was confirmed. Drummond hit a fine five-iron to two feet but the South African, from short of the green, chipped in for a half in eagles.

Els got to three-up twice but the rookie from Shropshire fought hard to hold on. Having stopped at the 16th green, at least Els was only a few steps from home. Conditions deteriorated late in the day and Langer won three holes in a row against Singh to edge ahead before losing the 26th hole.

Lee Westwood also ended the day on a high by winning the 27th, 28th and 29th holes to go three-up against Todd Hamilton.

World Match Play Championship (West Course, Wentworth, Surrey). First round results and overnight positions: (Round unfinished following rain delay): E Els (SA) 2-up on S Drummond (Sco) (after 34 holes); KJ Choi (S Kor) 1-down to A Cabrera (Arg) (after 33 holes); P Harrington (Irl) level with C Riley (US) (after 32 holes); M Weir (Can) level with T Levet (Fr) (after 32 holes); R Goosen (SA) bt J Maggert (US) 12 and 11; T Hamilton (US) 3-down to L Westwood (Eng) (after 29 holes); M A Jimenez (Sp) level with S Flesch (US) (after 26 holes); V Singh (Fiji) 2-down to B Langer (Ger) (after 26 holes).

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