JOHN­SON ON A ROLL

Dis­plays great form for semi-fi­nal show­down with Tani­hara

New Straits Times - - Sport -

TOP-RANKED Dustin John­son won twice in im­pres­sive fash­ion on Satur­day to ad­vance into the World Golf Cham­pi­onships Match-Play Cham­pi­onship semi­fi­nals, where he will face 60thranked Ja­pan Tour star Hideto Tani­hara.

Reign­ing US Open cham­pion John­son de­feated fel­low Amer­i­can Zach John­son 5 and 4, then birdied to win three of the last four holes and hold off Swedish eighth seed Alex Noren 3 and 2 in the quar­ter-fi­nals at Austin (Texas) Coun­try Club.

John­son seeks his third ti­tle in a row after wins last month at Riviera and three weeks ago at the WGC Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship. He could be­come the first player to win ev­ery WGC event and match Tiger Woods as the only play­ers to win con­sec­u­tive WGC events.

“It’s a long way to go. I’ve got to make it to the fi­nals first,” John­son said of his chance at his­tory.

“Any­thing can hap­pen. I like the way I’m play­ing. I like my chances.”

He will face a de­ter­mined long­shot in 38-yearold Tani­hara, who dis­patched Eng­land's Ross Fisher 4 and 2 in the quar­ter-fi­nals after de­feat­ing Eng­land’s Paul Casey 2 and 1 in the round of 16.

US 42nd seed Bill Haas held off a late charge by coun­try­man Phil Mick­el­son to de­feat the five-time ma­jor win­ner 2 and 1 and reach a Sun­day semi-fi­nal against 22year-old Spa­niard Jon Rahm, the 21st seed who routed Den­mark’s Soren Kjeld­sen 7 and 5.

“He hits the ball a long way,” Haas said. “I def­i­nitely need to be in the fair­ways and put the pres­sure on him, make him at­tack. He’s cer­tainly go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult.”

Haas and John­son each led 3up after nine holes but saw their matches tighten quickly be­fore they ad­vanced.

John­son won the first three holes against Noren and was 3-up at the turn, but the World No 1 missed a short par putt to lose 10 and found the wa­ter to drop 11, then watched as Noren rolled in a stun­ning 40-foot birdie putt at the par-5 12th to square the match – the first time all week any foe had been level with John­son after any hole.

John­son, who lost to Noren in the first round of the 2013 WGC Match Play, an­swered with birdies at 13, 15 and 16 to seal the win.

Tani­hara closed the front nine with four hole-win­ning birdies in a row, the long­est putt from five feet, to jump 4-up on Fisher at the turn. A six-foot birdie at 13 put Tani­hara 5-up and he halved Fisher three holes later to end mat­ters.

Three-time Masters win­ner Mick­el­son had not trailed this week un­til Haas opened their match with a birdie. Haas birdied to win the third, fifth and sixth to seize com­mand.

Mick­el­son birdied to win the 10th and claimed 12 with a par, then barely missed a 12-foot birdie putt at 13 to square the match. Haas birdied to win 15, Mick­el­son missed a 10-foot ea­gle putt at 16 and could only halve 17.

“I’ve been mak­ing that putt all week,” said the 47-year-old left­hander. “I had the op­por­tu­ni­ties to match him on sev­eral holes and I didn’t make the putts.” AFP

Any­thing can hap­pen. I like the way I’m play­ing. I like my chances.

DUSTIN JOHN­SON

AFP PIC

Dustin John­son re­acts after putting for birdie on the 15th hole of his round five match in the World Golf Cham­pi­onships Match-Play Cham­pi­onship.

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