MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Martin Kaymer is one match away from becoming No. 1.
The German squandered a big lead on the back nine Saturday morning before parring the 18th hole to defeat Miguel Angel Jimenez and reach the Match Play Championship semifinals.
Kaymer need only reach the final to take the top ranking and replace Lee Westwood. Kaymer faced Bubba Watson, who staged an amazing comeback to beat J.B. Holmes in 19 holes. Kaymer beat Watson in a playoff at last year’s PGA Championship for his first major.
Holmes was 5 up with eight holes to play when he got sloppy, failing to birdie either of the par 5s on the back nine and then losing control of his tee shots with the match on the line. He lost the 18th hole with a shot in the desert to force extra holes.
They returned to No. 10, and both players hit into the desert. Watson was helped by being left-handed and played a strong shot just off the green. Holmes had no choice but to take a penalty drop from the bush, and after some 20 minutes figuring where to drop, he couldn’t reach the green and made bogey.
It was the second time in as many appearances in this tournament that Holmes blew a big lead.
Three years ago on a different course, he was 3 up with five holes to play until Tiger Woods won four straight holes with three birdies and an eagle to beat him.
That was Woods producing amazing shots. This was Holmes hitting poor ones.
Holmes looked lost over the final hour of an excruciatingly long match that took nearly five hours. Watson let him off the hook twice by missing birdie putts inside 10 feet on the 16th and 17th holes. Watson won the last two holes of the match with pars.
“I didn’t finish off the way I needed to,” Holmes said.
In the other quarterfinal matches, Luke Donald of England put on another strong display of shotmaking to easily beat Ryan Moore, 5 and 4. Donald played only 60 holes the first four matches without reaching the 18th. He has never trailed in any match, and only four times were his matches all square.
Next up for Donald was Matt Kuchar, who had no trouble against Y.E. Yang of South Korea in a 2-and-1 victory. Kuchar won four holes in a five-hole stretch on the front nine, and Yang ran out of holes in his bid to rally.
That left two Americans and two Europeans in the semifinals.
Kaymer wore a scarf to fight off the morning chill at Dove Mountain. He never trailed and appeared to be sailing toward the semifinals when Jimenez made him work for it.
The 47-year-old Spaniard, the oldest player in the field, was 4 down with four holes to play when he won the next three holes, two of them with par. They reached the 18th hole, long and into the wind, and Kaymer hit a solid shot from 224 yards onto the green. Jimenez hit fairway metal left of the green and failed to chip in for birdie to extend the match.
The one match that never figured to go the distance was Holmes and Watson.
In a power display unseen at The Ritz-Carlton Club, two of America’s biggest hitters put on a show. Holmes hit two drives of at least 400 yards with the wind at his back and elevation in his favor. Watson was tentative with every swing and especially every putt. Holmes made a short birdie to go 5 up through 10, and it appeared to be a short match.
It turned out to be just the opposite.
Holmes’ second collapse in this tournament was even more costly this time. He needed to advance to the semifinals to crack the top 50 in the world ranking and become eligible for the next World Golf Championship in two weeks at Doral.