McGinley seizes the moment

World Match Play: US Open champion stands between Ryder Cup Irishman and £1m jackpot

The big finger in the sky certainly seems to have been pointing towards the diminutive Dubliner all week as he has hurried those scampering little footsteps of his all the way to the final of the World Match Play Championship. True, in seeing off the second seed by 4 & 3 yesterday the Ryder Cup hero of yesteryear was not quite as quick to the kill as his opponent in today's 36-hole final. But then there are abattoirs that would not have acted with the bloodthirsty haste of Michael Campbell.

The New Zealander dared not hesitate with his trigger, though, as Goosen is supposed to be the gunslinger with the eyes that do not blink and here on the first two days they had barely needed to. Except history, as it is prone to, staged something of a reprisal yesterday, reminding all of the day in June when Mr Unflappable flapped like the startled Goose he was at the US Open. The man who capitalised in that final round, as the leader threw away a three-shot lead, was one Michael Campbell. For Pinehurst read Wentworth, for North Carolina, West Surrey.

To be fair to the world No 5, there was not an awful lot he could do to stop the 36-year-old disappearing over the hill as an eagle and three birdies in four mesmeric holes from the fourth moved him four-up. But from then on it was like they were playing in different valleys. Campbell was bubbling expectancy personified, moving five-up with a morning 64, Goosen miserable indifference on two legs as he let the flyer slip further clear to close it out 7 & 6.

"Goosie just didn't fire today," said Campbell, looking like he had just been unwittingly compliant in a suicide pact. The right hand that kept slipping off the shaft on his follow-through suggested Goosen may have been carrying a shoulder injury, but the way he shrugged it when queried later seemed to scotch that theory. "Everyone but everyone has days like that," said Campbell.

He was not moaning and nor was McGinley, who was not admitting it but would take this US Open champion 100 times out of 100 in preference to Goosen as he chases his first title in four years. First, however, there was that route to negotiate past Cabrera, the Argentinian who had so agonisingly blocked him from the PGA Championship here in May. This meant a lot and the vast, green-tinged crowds reflected it. "It was like the Ryder Cup out there," said McGinley.

And Cabrera was somewhat unfairly cast in the role of fist-pumping American, the bogeys he made on the second and the 12th being greeted with unseemly cheers as he tossed two holes away he could not really afford. Not with McGinley's putter as hot as it is.

If the 60-footer on the ninth and the chip-in on the next owed something sizeable to the Good Lady Fortune then the 15-footer for birdie on the 17th and the 10-footer for eagle on the 18th were in debt to no one and nothing. "That finish was so important to take me back to three up," said McGinley, and when his 10-footer followed Cabrera's 20-footer in on the second hole of the afternoon round, the writing was writ large in ink that just wouldn't fade.

"These greens are fantastic and I've been putting well," he said. "I'm not as bad a putter as Padraig [Harrington] has always said I am." The West Course will see about that today as the straight-faced implement is always the first to buckle in such a cauldron. McGinley is well aware of the heat of this event. "I've watched this tournament from the outside looking in and it really hit home on Wednesday night when I saw the list of winners," he said. "It has a huge history, it's a massive tournament."

Its size will be magnified even further today as either of these finalists could yet steal the Order of Merit title off Goosen and that will also help them in their age-old insistence that this will be about "so much more than the money". Nevertheless, £1m is still £1m and when asked about it, McGinley simply rolled his eyes.

It was reminiscent of when Ernie Els was the first up to collect this "richest first prize in golf". Then the question went: "D'you think it's obscene the amount you've just won? And d'you entirely feel comfortable with it?" Ernie's reply was simple. "Yes and yes," he said.

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