Dustin John­son beats Alex Noren to move on to the Match Play semi­fi­nals.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - GOLF ROUNDUP

Dustin John­son had rea­son to be rat­tled.

As he walked off the 12th green Satur­day af­ter­noon, the match ref­eree said five words that John­son heard for the first time all week in the Match Play in Austin. “The match is all square.” Un­til then, John­son had led after each of the 71 holes he had played at Austin Coun­try Club.

He wasted lit­tle time re­spond­ing to a rare chal­lenge. John­son birdied three of the next four holes for a 3-and-2 vic­tory over Alex Noren to ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals and stay on track for a po­ten­tial show­down be­tween No. 1 in the world and Jon Rahm, golf’s bright­est young star.

“I wasn’t frus­trated that I was all square. I was frus­trated that I kind of gave 10 and 11 away,” John­son said. “Came back strong after los­ing three holes in a row.”

Rahm was so dom­i­nant he played only 27 holes in two matches Satur­day. He hasn’t had a match go longer than 14 holes since Thurs­day. And the 22-yearold rookie from Spain still hasn’t played the 18th hole since a prac­tice round Tues­day.

“The golf I’ve played the last three matches re­ally has been very im­pres­sive, even to my­self,” he said. “And it seemed to get bet­ter as I played, which is some­thing that doesn’t hap­pen of­ten.”

Rahm lost only one of the 27 holes he played in his 6-and-4 vic­tory over Charles How­ell III and his 7-and-5 vic­tory over Soren Kjeld­sen in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

Rahm faces a semi­fi­nal match Sun­day morn­ing against Bill Haas, who ended Phil Mick­el­son’s hopes with a 2-and-1 vic­tory. Mick­el­son had ad­vanced to the quar­ter­fi­nals for the first time in 13 years with a vic­tory against Marc Leish­man.

Mick­el­son never trailed in any match un­til he fell be­hind on the first hole to Haas, and he had never led when the match ended on the 17th hole.

“I strug­gled mak­ing the putts that I have been mak­ing all week,” Mick­el­son said. “That seemed to me to be the dif­fer­ence.”

John­son, go­ing after a third straight PGA Tour ti­tle, faces one of this tour­na­ment’s biggest sur­prises in Hideko Tani­hara of Ja­pan.

“He looks un­beat­able,” Tani­hara said. “I hope he doesn’t feel good to­mor­row, so maybe I have a chance.”

Tani­hara be­gan the week by beat­ing Jor­dan Spi­eth. On Satur­day, he took down Paul Casey with two late birdies in the morn­ing fourth round, and then he beat Ross Fisher, 4 and 2, to reach the semi­fi­nals.

John­son has looked un­stop­pable all month.

He went to No. 1 in the world with a five-shot vic­tory at Riviera. In his next start, he won the Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship after hold­ing off a late rally from Rahm. Now he’s two vic­to­ries away from be­com­ing the first player to sweep the four World Golf Cham­pi­onships.

None of John­son’s five matches has gone beyond the 16th hole. In the fourth round, he beat Zach John­son, 5 and 4.

John­son went 3 up at the turn, and then it was gone. He three­p­utted from 30 feet to lose the 10th hole. His tee shot on the par-3 11th hit the rocks and went into the wa­ter. And then he had to set­tle for par after leav­ing him­self in an awk­ward spot, only to watch Noren hole a 40-footer to tie the match.

John­son made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 13th — Noren missed from eight feet — and then be­gan to pull away with an­other 10-foot birdie on the 15th.

PGA: Chris Stroud birdied his fi­nal hole to cap off a 5-un­der 67 and take a one-shot lead in the Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande as he goes for his first PGA Tour vic­tory.

One shot be­hind was a pair of past PGA Tour win­ners, Bill Lunde and D.A. Points, who each shot 69.

The Puerto Rico Open is the 277th start of Stroud’s ca­reer.

LPGA: Mirim Lee shot a 5un­der 67 in the third round of the Kia Clas­sic in Carls­bad, Calif., to go to 13 un­der and take a one shot lead over Mi Jung Hur, who made a 67-foot putt on No. 18 to card a 66.

An­other South Korean, In Gee Chun, was tied at 10 un­der with Cristie Kerr.

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