Australian John Senden has ended a string of flops with a quarter-final spot in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Franciso.
While top seed Rory McIlroy won the tournament with a straightforward 4&2 win over American Gary Woodland, Senden’s performance gives him hope for the remainder of the season.
Going into to the prestigious event the Queenslander had missed the cut in four of his past five events with a tie for 38th at The Masters his best effort.
But he battled through the Match Play with the highlight being a 2&1 win over talented American Hunter Mahan in the round of 16.
Senden then went down 5&3 to eventual finalist Woodland in the quarter-finals.
He credits recent hard work with coach Ian Triggs with his return to form.
"I did some great work with my coach from Australia for about a month and he was in Augusta and we did some work in New Orleans and I felt like it was coming around," Senden said.
"I’ve been striking the ball well. The body hasn’t behaved as well as I would have liked to during the year but I feel like I’m going to go out there and just be aggressive and stick to my plan. I think that I can keep turning it around."
However he admitted he was less than optimistic heading into the tournament.
"Well, it’s quite difficult, I think. I haven’t had a lot of experience in match play," he said. "I’ve been out here a number of years, but only been on this tournament two or three times. And there’s other times that have been hit and miss, as well.
"I think it’s about sticking with your plan, staying aggressive. Just go out there and do your own thing, try not to worry about what the other one is doing. He just controls what he does, and I control what I do. You’ve just got to battle on."
Senden was the clear underdog in his clash with Mahan who had not been behind one hole during the week but Senden said the match swung his way midway through.
"He had control of the match on the first holes and he was a couple up," he said. "And then I had some birdies on the middle of the back nine which turned the momentum. I stuck to my game plan. I stayed aggressive, stayed on my play.
"You have to choose to stay strong and aggressive because you know he’s hitting great shots all the time. If you could just keep on your game plan to try to get it close anyone can be beaten."
Marc Leishman also produced a creditable performance, reaching the round of 16 before bowing out to Woodland. Stars Adam Scott and Jason Day were eliminated early.
McIlroy, meanwhile, had come from behind up to the final but was off to a fiery start, winning four straight holes against an errant Woodland.
When Woodland conceded the 16th hole McIlroy captured his second World Golf Championship.
"I’m really proud of myself with how I showed a lot of character early on with coming back from deficits," McIlroy said. "I played really solid golf. My second WGC and first win in the States this year. I couldn’t be happier."
Woodland had a chance to fight his way back into the match – he had a metre long par putt on the 13th to cut the lead to 1-up but ran the ball across the right edge of the hole.
McIlroy won the 14th with a par when Woodland left a long birdie attempted short. And he closed out the match when Woodland blasted out of a bunker and over the 16th green, missing the next shot.
By: Robert Grant