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Golf: Els in Match Play semis for first time in 13 years
First Published Feb 22 2014 07:19 pm • Last Updated Feb 22 2014 08:59 pm

Marana, Ariz. • It’s rare to hear Ernie Els describe his week at the Match Play Championship as "wonderful."

He’s usually not around long enough to say anything at all.

At a glance

WGC Match Play Championship

Semifinals » Jason Day vs. Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els vs. Victor Dubuisson, 7 a.m., TGC

Finals » Semifinal winners, noon, Ch. 2

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This time, the wacky world of match play is working in his favor. Even though Els has made more bogeys than birdies, even though he didn’t break par at Dove Mountain until his quarterfinal match Saturday, the 44-year-old South African is two matches away from claiming another World Golf Championship.

Els made birdie from the desert on the par-5 eighth hole to take the lead for good against 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, and then pulled away for a 4-and-2 victory to reach the semifinals for the first time in 13 years.

"At times I haven’t played my best, as you guys have well-documented and know," Els said with a laugh. "But it’s match play. I’ve just done enough to get through."

Graeme McDowell was the only other player who felt lucky to still be around, only for his luck to run out against Victor Dubuisson of France.

McDowell had reached the quarterfinals even though he never led a single hole while any of his previous three matches were in progress. He finally took a lead — 60 holes into this tournament — and wound up losing.

Typical of his week, it went down to the wire.

Dubuisson hit a beautiful chip from the rough in front of a corporate suite behind the 16th green to save par, while McDowell missed a 6-foot putt to lose the hole. Dubuisson saved par with another superb chip behind the 17th green, and had one more in his bag from below the 18th green to save yet another par. McDowell narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt that would have extended the match.

"Lucky, lucky to even be here today," McDowell said. "But actually played quite nicely most of the day. It all boiled down to my putter actually let me down. I had a chance on 14 for the hole, chance on 15 for the hole, missed a short one on 16. My luck is going to run out sooner than later."


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Els plays Dubuisson, a rising star in the European ranks who won the Turkish Open, where Tiger Woods finished five shots behind.

In other quarterfinal matches:

— Jason Day reached the semifinals for the second straight year with a 2-and-1 win over Louis Oosthuizen, who played with a nagging back injury.

— Rickie Fowler lost a 3-up lead to Arizona grad Jim Furyk, only to win the last two holes for a 1-up victory for a shot at Day. Furyk was in the same spot as Dubuisson on the 18th hole, but his first chip rolled back down the hill toward his feet.

Fowler is the No. 53 seed, the highest to reach the semifinals since Zach Johnson was No. 59 in 2006 when it was held at La Costa.

Els long held a reputation as a wizard in match play, having captured the World Match Play Championship seven times when it was at Wentworth and featured smaller fields and 36-hole matches. This version hasn’t been kind to him.

He reached the semifinals in 2001 at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, only to lose to Pierre Fulke. Els didn’t imagine it would take this long to get back, though he understands that anything can happen — and usually does — over 18 holes of match play.

"I really had a love-hate relationship with this event, as you guys well know," he said. "I was lucky enough to get in the field a couple of years ago and beat Luke Donald in the first round. But most of the time, I lost in the first round here either on the 18th or 19th hole. It’s been a frustrating time in this event."

The semifinals will be Sunday morning, following by the championship match.

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