Jon Rahm storms into Match Play semi-finals in Austin

Young Spanish star beats Soren Kjeldsen 7&5 in quarter-finals; Dustin Johnson also makes last four

Spain’s  Jon Rahm  reacts after putting on the ninth hole during his quarter-final against Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen at the WGC-Dell  Match Play at the Austin Country Club  in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Spain’s Jon Rahm reacts after putting on the ninth hole during his quarter-final against Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen at the WGC-Dell Match Play at the Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 

Spain’s Jon Rahm stormed into the semi-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, much to the delight of potential Ryder Cup team-mate Lee Westwood.

After beating American Charles Howell III 6&4 in their last-16 clash on Saturday morning, Rahm thrashed Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen 7&5 in the quarter-finals to book his place in the last four.

The 22-year-old, who was the world’s top ranked amateur while studying at Arizona State University, is currently 25th in the world after winning his first PGA Tour title in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January.

And he could rise as high as 10th in the standings with victory in his just his second World Golf Championships event, having finished tied third in the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier this month.

Rahm has not trailed at any point in his five matches this week at Austin Country Club and was three up on Kjeldsen after six holes, aided by an eagle on the par-five sixth.

A par was good enough to win the eighth and birdies on the 10th and 12th helped Rahm seal another emphatic victory in the €9 million event.

Rahm, who will face Bill Haas in Sunday’s semi-final after the American beat compatriot Phil Mickelson 2&1, told PGA Tour Live: “The only thing I could have done better is maybe make that putt on 11 and that’s about it.

“There’s not many rounds of golf where a player looks back and says I cannot play any better and today was one of those. Last time I said that was Torrey Pines. Today it was the exact same way. I did a really good job.”

By joining the European Tour on March 1st as an affiliate member, Rahm is eligible to earn Ryder Cup points when qualifying begins on August 31st.

Commentating on Rahm’s match for Sky Sports, Westwood said: “His game is by no means one-dimensional. He’s got a lot of different shots, even for a young player.

“I think his game is really impressive. He’s definitely a big star of the future.”

Mickelson had never trailed in any of his first four matches and led for 54 of the 57 holes he had played, while Haas had to hole a 40-yard pitch to stay alive in his group 11 play-off with KT Kim before winning on the sixth hole.

However, it was Haas who birdied the opening hole to take an early lead and the former FedEx Cup champion was three up at the turn before Mickelson won the 10th and 12th to get back to one down.

Haas birdied the 15th to double his advantage and crucially matched Mickelson’s birdie on the 16th after the left-hander missed from eight feet for an eagle.

In the other half of the draw, world number one Dustin Johnson overcame spirited resistance from Sweden’s Alex Noren to remain on course to become the first player to win all four WGC titles.

Johnson won the first three holes against Noren and was still ahead by the same margin at the turn, only to bogey the 10th and 11th and lose the next to a birdie.

However, the US Open champion – who is seeking a third straight tournament victory – bounced back to birdie the 13th, 15th and 16th to complete a hard-fought 3&2 win.

Johnson will face Japan’s Hideto Tanihara in the semi-finals after the 54th seed beat England’s Ross Fisher 4&2, although Fisher’s last-16 victory over Bubba Watson is expected to take him into the world’s top 50 on Monday and secure a first appearance in the Masters since 2012.

RESULTS – LAST 16
Bill Haas (USA) bt Kevin Na (USA) 1 up
Phil Mickelson (USA) bt Marc Leishman (Aus) 4&3
Jon Rahm (Esp) bt Charles Howell III (USA) 6&4
Soren Kjeldsen (Den) bt William McGirt (USA) 5&4
Ross Fisher (Eng) bt Bubba Watson (USA) 4&3
Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) bt Paul Casey (Eng) 2&1
Alex Noren (Swe) bt Brooks Koepka (USA) 3&1
Dustin Johnson (USA) bt Zach Johnson (USA) 5&4

QUARTER-FINALS
Haas bt Mickelson 2&1
Rahm bt Kjeldsen 7&5
Tanihara bt Fisher 4&2
Johnson bt Noren 3&2

SUNDAY’S SEMI-FINALS
Rahm v Haas, 3pm Irish time
Johnson v Tanihara, 3.12pm Irish time

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