ASH England (Reuters) - The apprentice made the sorcerer fight all the way before top seed Henrik Stenson scrambled a two-hole victory over fellow Swede Jonas Blixt at the Volvo World Match Play Championship on Saturday.
World number five Stenson next meets George Coetzee in the semi-finals after the South African, a late replacement this week for the injured Thomas Bjorn, produced a faultless eight-birdie display to sink U.S. Ryder Cup rookie Patrick Reed 2 & 1.
Dutchman Joost Luiten was also in sparkling form, cramming eight birdies into 13 holes to crush Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal 6 & 5.
Luiten will play Finn Mikko Ilonen in Sunday morning’s semis after he defeated European Ryder Cup debutant Victor Dubuisson by two holes in another match chock-full of birdies.
The 38-year-old Stenson grabbed the initiative on a grey, wet day at the London Club with five birdies in the first 11 holes taking him three up.
But the tenacious Blixt, 30, who is down in 58th spot in the world rankings, gave his compatriot a fright by claiming a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th to take the match down the par-five 18th.
Both men missed the green with their approach shots and a smiling Blixt shook hands with Stenson after failing to hole out from 25 feet.
“Everyone comes back at me,” 2013 U.S. FedExCup champion Stenson told reporters. “Same with Thongchai Jaidee yesterday, no one let’s me have an easy finish here.
“Jonas pushed an old man all the way to the last there and made it very interesting. He put some pressure on me over the last couple of holes for sure.”
Blixt said he was not happy with the start he made to the quarter-final.
“I played awful for the first 12 holes and didn’t get my driver in the fairway,” he complained. “It’s hard to play golf from the rough.
“I hit a lot of fairways against Paul Casey yesterday and was able to get my scoring clubs in my hand and get close to the pin. I just didn’t do that today, don’t know what happened.”
Reed was six-under for his round but it was not enough to tame a rampant Coetzee who strung together four successive birdies at the start of the back nine.
The South African has made the most of his late call-up, registering one bogey all week, and said he was thoroughly enjoying the match play format.
“I’m just trying not to make any mistakes,” said Coetzee, the lowest-ranked player in the field at number 89.
“That’s the name of the game in the Match Play, not to give any holes away. Playing man-on-man is the closest you get to contact sports in golf.”
Luiten, the only player with a 100 percent record, made it four wins from four matches with a one-sided victory over Larrazabal that took his tally this week to a staggering 27 birdies and one eagle.
“What can I say? It’s match play, you can be aggressive,” said the Dutchman. “The course is playing soft so I think a lot of the boys are making a lot of birdies.”
Dubuisson, like Reed, can consider himself unlucky to have gone out. The Frenchman notched five birdies and two eagles but Ilonen was also in red-hot form, claiming eight birdies.
“It felt like it could have gone either way and I was lucky to come out on top in the end,” said the Finn.
Editing by Ed Osmond