Harrington lies in wait as Els marches on

Only three players have ever beaten Ernie Els in matchplay over the West Course. Bernhard Langer accounted for Vijay Singh with a classic upset of the world No 1, but Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood remain in wait for the South African at the World Match Play here.

Only three players have ever beaten Ernie Els in matchplay over the West Course. Bernhard Langer accounted for Vijay Singh with a classic upset of the world No 1, but Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood remain in wait for the South African at the World Match Play here.

With the tournament catching up after Thursday's storm, Els required just one hole in the morning to defeat Scott Drummond and then beat Angel Cabrera at the final hole. Els has not so far been at his best, admitting to snatching the club at the takeaway and trying to swing too hard.

He twice went out of bounds on the 17th and was trailing after 18 holes but won the 17th in the afternoon and though Cabrera almost chipped in at the last for an eagle, Els holed from nine feet for the match. "I wasn't playing all that well but I started swinging the club as I wanted to in the afternoon and hit a lot of good shots down the stretch," he said. "It was a tough match but it's good just to get through the opening rounds and be finding my rhythm."

His attempt at a record sixth title now depends on a semi-final against Harrington, who beat the South African in their only previous encounter five years ago, albeit at the 38th hole.

Harrington, the runner-up to Ian Woosnam three years ago, was six-up on his Ryder Cup team-mate Thomas Levet after three holes of the afternoon. But at the ninth, while playing a three-iron, he smashed his thumb into a tree, which produced an agonised reaction.

"Part of it was surprise because I couldn't believe I had hit the tree," he said. "I thought I had plenty of room. It hurt but the pain was not the problem. After I had it iced, it felt like I had a shovel in my hands rather than a club. After a while I realised I could not hit any full shots and just endeavoured to get home whatever way I could." Twice he went out of bounds on the way home but the Irishman secured the win at the last.

Westwood is the only player to have defeated Els twice here, including on his way to the title in 2000. Having completed a victory over Todd Hamilton, the Open champion, Westwood then put out the US Open champion, Retief Goosen, two and one. What was a tight match all morning suddenly opened up when Westwood won the 18th to go three-up and he held a comfortable advantage for much of the afternoon, although Goosen pulled two holes back at the 15th and 16th.

"One of the keys to matchplay is not to panic," said Westwood, who is suffering from a cold. "It was a long day and I could do with a good night's sleep but when I looked at the draw I knew I was going to have to go through the major champions."

Instead of Singh, the USPGA champion, Westwood plays the winner of the quarter-final between Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez, whose morning round of 63 included the first ever eagle in the competition at the seventh hole, where the Spaniard holed a full nine-iron shot. When play stopped for darkness Jimenez was three-up with eight to play.

On a mostly dank and showery day, Langer resumed two-up with 10 to play against Singh. The Fijian almost pulled off a remarkable recovery after being three-down with four to play by making three birdies in a row.

But the Ryder Cup captain, now 47 and playing in the tournament for the first time in nine years, eventually triumphed at the 37th. "It reminded me of the old Bible story when little David beat Goliath," Langer said. "He was the hot favourite but I played fairly well and I am always tremendously motivated."

World Match Play Championship (West Course, Wentworth, Surrey) Quarter-finals: E Els (SA) bt A Cabrera (Arg) 1 hole; L Westwood (GB) bt R Goosen (SA) 2&1; P Harrington (Irl) bt T Levet (Fr) 1 hole; M A Jimenez (Sp) 3 up against B Langer (Ger) (after 28 holes; to be completed today).

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