MARTIN Laird and Paul Lawrie set up an all-Scottish third-round clash today after beating two of golf’s up-and-coming talents in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Laird, Scotland’s top-ranked player, progressed with a 2 and 1 victory over Italian teenager Matteo Manassero and was joined in the last 16 by Lawrie after he won on the last hole against Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa.
“That’s as good as I have played for a while,” said Scottsdale-based Laird. “And I needed all of it because he played unbelievable today.”
Two up at the turn, the Scot lost the short 12th to a par before making an all-important birdie 2 at the 16th to give himself a cushion again. “It was a great game,” added Laird, who lost in the first round on his debut in the event 12 months ago .
Lawrie was never behind as he beat Ishikawa. The 43-year-old was one ahead on three separate occasions before he finally got into a two-up lead when Ishikawa bogeyed the ninth.
A bogey from Lawrie meant it went the distance, but Ishikawa missed with a 15-footer at the last to take it into extra holes.
The Aberdonian, who is playing in the event for the first time since 2003, reckoned he should have finished the job off earlier but was pleased nevertheless with a second successive last-green victory. “It was similar to yesterday,” he said. “I played solid tee to green but struggled with the putter. It should have been over earlier than it was but it’s birdies or bogeys on this course and it’s good fun.”
The 1999 Open champion wasted no time starting some mind games ahead of his clash with Laird. “I’m looking forward to it. He’s ahead of me in the world rankings so will be the favourite – and I’ll be reminding him of that in the morning.”
Glaswegian Laird revealed he once took advice from Lawrie when he was working his way through the amateur ranks in Scotland before heading to college in Colorado.
Reminded of that, Lawrie said: “Martin told me about it when we played nine holes together at Loch Lomond a couple of years ago. I think it was when Adam Hunter was the national coach but I don’t remember Martin specifically as I think there were about 30 boys there.”
Lee Westwood finally made the last 16 at the 12th attempt. Needing to win the title on Sunday to regain the world No 1 spot from the already-departed Luke Donald, the 38-year-old third seed beat Robert Karlsson 3 and 2. And Westwood does not have to face Tiger Woods today in his bid to reach the quarter-finals.
Woods, the three-times winner missed a six-foot birdie putt on the last and went out to fellow American Nick Watney.
Not that Westwood would consider Watney an easier opponent. He is the player who has knocked him out the last two years. “What’s going on? This is uncharted territory for me,” said Westwood. “I played very well apart from one real schoolboy mental error. Now I’ve got a chance to get revenge.”
Woods said after his missed putt: “Something I was fighting all day was blocking my putts and I blocked that one.”
It is the fourth year in a row that he will not be in the Friday action. He lost his opening match to Thomas Bjorn last year, did not play in 2010 following his sex scandal and went out to Tim Clark in the second round the previous season.
England’s Robert Rock went down 3 and 2 to American Mark Wilson, while another American, Dustin Johnson, thumped Italian Francesco Molinari 7 and 5.
Ernie Els, having hammered Donald 5 and 4, was on the receiving end of the same scoreline against Swede Peter Hanson – a big blow to his hopes of qualifying for The Masters in April.
Els will remain outside the world’s top 50, but has until the end of next month to get there and earn a place at Augusta. Hanson now plays Brandt Snedeker, who won an all-American battle with Kyle Stanley 2 and 1.
Second seed Rory McIlroy, who can also head the world rankings by winning, beat Dane Anders Hansen 3 and 2. The Ulsterman will face Miguel Angel Jiminez today after the Spaniard’s 2 and 1 win over Keegan Bradley.