McGuigan ousts top-seed Fichardt
A wrap of the quarterfinals of the ISPS Handa SA Match Play Championship, played on Saturday morning at Zwartkop Country Club.
Doug McGuigan turned three-up, but had to bring his A-game to win after top-seeded Darren Fichardt fought back during round five of the ISPS Handa SA Match Play Championship on Saturday.
“I’m just playing very consistent at the moment. In all of my games so far I’ve gone up early and stayed in play, and in match play that puts pressure on your opponent. So far it’s working,” said McGuigan.
The 42-year-old, who ranked eighth heading into the R2-million tournament, faced his toughest match-up on Saturday, but managed to overcome the three-time European Tour winner 2&1.
“I was obviously happy to beat him,” said McGuigan. “I would rank him as the top player out of the eight, not that there’s anything wrong with the other six guys, but he has more experience with his European career. To beat him is a good scalp.
The turning point came when McGuigan drained a 15-footer from the fringe for birdie, which put him one ahead.
“It definitely swung a bit at 14. I let him off on the next hole, but that birdie beforehand just helped add pressure, because both of us were feeling it,” he said.
Earlier in the day he had opened at speed, taking a three-hole lead into the turn. But Fichardt fought back, showing just why he’s ranked 96th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
“I went par, bogey, bogey, he went birdie, par, par and we were back to square,” said McGuigan. “I just managed to stay calm and felt good the whole day. I haven’t made too many bogeys, so I decided to just get back into it.”
Merrick Bremner was self-deprecating about the quality of golf which got him into the semifinals with a 3&2 win over Theunis Spangenberg.
But any round which includes three birdies and an eagle by the time the 16th hole is reached is pretty good golf, and Bremner takes real form with him into the match with Doug McGuigan, who was a 2&1 winner over Darren Fichardt.
“It was actually weird,” said Bremner. “Neither of us actually made any bad mistakes until 12 when Theunis made bogey from the bunker.
“He made a birdie on three, and I eagled four. Then we halved every hole in par. I made a great up-and-down on 12 from the bunker. I made a clutch putt on the next for birdie after Theunis had hit it to tap-in. I birdied the next hole, and I hit it close on 16.
“So it was no bogeys – just three birdies and an eagle,” he added.
Bremner had a 4&3 win in the opening round of the R2-million tournament, and then a pair of 1-up finishes took him into the round of 16. There, he defeated Jared Harvey 3&2, and he has always looked as if he will be tough to beat.
“The semifinal is the same as every round,” he cautioned, however. “You just go out and do your best. But I enjoy match play. And the last time I played a match play tournament, I won it.”
Jaco Ahlers made two crucial putts on the back nine on Saturday to play his way into the semifinals.
He defeated Wallie Coetsee 3&1 in a match in which he was never down after he started with three birdies in a row to go 3-up – an advantage which proved decisive.
“On 14, I made about a 12 or 15-footer for birdie after Wallie had got back to all-square, and then on 16, I made a four or five footer for birdie which got me two up with two to play,” said Ahlers.
Ahlers, seeded eighth, had a bye in the first round, and then defeated JG Claassen 3&2 in the second round. He had a big 5&3 win over Warren Abery in the third round, and in the round of 16, he had to fight hard to defeat Louis Moolman 1-up.
“Every day I’ve got off to a fast start,” said Ahlers. “I’ve been up through five holes every day. It just gives you a bit of confidence and momentum because you can just play your own game.”
Ahlers has played well all week, and he was feeling the confidence that breeds: “I’m chuffed with today. I hit the ball really well, and I hit the right shots at the right time on the back nine.”
PH McIntyre sank a clutch eight-footer on the 18th to finish all-square with Steven Ferreira in the fourth quarterfinal. Then he won on the first extra hole.
“It’s the second time I’ve played 19 holes, and let me tell you it’s very stressful! It’s a nice experience and helps me to control it a bit better and be patient. Patience is everything in the world,” said McIntyre.
The 26-year-old, who has made eight straight cuts on the Sunshine Tour, had a real battle with Ferreira on Saturday – the two halved only eight holes through the round.
“On 18 I just hoped for the best and luckily it went in. I’m exhausted, but I’m just playing for the enjoyment now, because I’ve made my target. To be in contention is awesome,” he said.
Ferreira went 1-up early on with his win at the second, but McIntyre bit back with wins at the fourth, fifth and eighth. He turned 1-up.
“I had confidence, but he played very well and it was a nice tough game,” said McIntyre.
A win at the 10th would take McIntyre to 2-up, but Ferreira soon found his groove and won at 12, 15 and 17. McIntyre was under pressure – he was 1-down on the last and needed a win.
He and Ferreira both found greenside bunkers and were left with eight-footers for birdie, but only McIntyre found the nerve to sink.
They headed back to the first to begin all over again. Within minutes the Heidelberg Golf Club professional was left of the green in two, while Ferreira was on the back fringe in four. After a comfortable chip and putt McIntyre took victory.
“On that last hole I just wanted to get it close and force him to make the fifth shot. I was very happy when it went in,” he said.
QUARTERFINAL SCORES (all players are South African, seedings in brackets):
Doug McGuigan (8) beat Darren Fichardt (1) – 2&1
Merrick Bremner (21) beat Theunis Spangenberg (52) – 3&2
Jaco Ahlers (6) beat Wallie Coetsee (62) – 3&1
PH McIntyre (58) beat Steven Ferreira (63) – EH#1