Stenson outlasts Immelman in marathon contest

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The Independent Online

The Swede Henrik Stenson squandered an early four-hole lead before holding off Trevor Immelman to win a marathon encounter in Thursday night's second round at the WGC Match Play.

The defending champion tapped in a two-foot birdie putt at the par-four seventh to seal victory on the 25th hole of a pulsating encounter. Immelman missed a seven-footer there to keep the match alive and Stenson booked his place in the third round where he was due to meet American Jonathan Byrd.

"I'm just happy I hung in there," Stenson, the tournament's 13th seed, said at Dove Mountain. "I made the putt on five when I really needed to and a great up-and-down on seven where he couldn't match that birdie."

Stenson rolled in an 11-footer to birdie the par-five fifth, the 23rd hole of the match, to stay level with Immelman, who had struck his third shot there to four feet. Two holes later, the South African appeared to have the advantage when he drove the green at the par-four seventh while Stenson found a bunker.

However, the Swede splashed out to two feet to set up his birdie three while Immelman, after hitting his first putt to seven feet, horseshoed out with his birdie attempt.

The marathon tie ended up just one shy of equalling the two longest matches in the tournament's history. American Scott Verplank outlasted Lee Westwood over 26 holes in 2006, matching the record set by Canada's Mike Weir with his victory over American Loren Roberts in 2003.

"I made some important three- and four-footers to stay alive and he missed a couple of chances," Stenson said. "I wouldn't have been as disappointed, I guess, if I would have lost as he is, because he had better chances than I did."

Colin Montgomerie was due to play America's Stewart Cink last night after beating Charles Howell in the second round on Thursday. Montgomerie beat Jim Furyk in the first round and is doing his Ryder Cup chances no harm. Paul Casey was the only other British player left in the event going into last night's matches.