Frenchman Perez joins US trio in WGC Match Play semis

WASHINGTON (AFP) – France’s Victor Perez joined Americans Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel and Scottie Scheffler in the WGC Match Play semi-finals with dramatic victories on Saturday, the final four all seeded outside the top 30 for the first time.

United States (US) 52nd seed Kuchar, the 2013 winner and 2019 runner-up, defeated US 54th-seeded left-hander Brian Harman 2&1 to stay perfect this week at 5-0 and advance to a semi-final against US 30th seed Scheffler.

“I feel great,” Kuchar said after sinking a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-three 17th to seal the victory. “I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve been having.

“On top of that, it has been so intense. It’s a lot easier to smile when putts are going in. Certainly there are a lot of nerves.”

Perez, the 31st seed who ousted Spanish 39th seed Sergio Garcia 4&3, continued a fairytale run in his WGC Match Play debut, booking a morning date with US 32nd seed Horschel in the other semi-final at Austin (Texas) Country Club.

Victor Perez of France plays his shot. PHOTO: AFP

“I think it’s the benefit of not knowing. Sometimes ignorance is a good thing in golf,” Perez said of his first-timer success. “I feel like I’m going to keep on riding it.”

Horschel edged English 21st seed Tommy Fleetwood in 19 holes while Scheffler outdueled Spanish third seed Jon Rahm 3&1 in the other quarter-finals.

“I feel pretty comfortable out here. I’m not overthinking it too much,” Scheffler said. “Everything is going so fast out here. It’s pretty simple, just kind of staying in the moment and hit good golf shots.”

Horschel never led until the playoff hole, the par-five 12th, where Fleetwood sent his tee shot out of bounds and Horschel holed a tense five-foot par putt to clinch the victory.

“It’s tough. Tom and I had a great battle all day,” Horschel said. “I knew a par would probably win it but this isn’t the easiest hole. I’m glad to win it and move on.”

Rahm, the only top seed to advance from the group stages, fell three-down after five holes to Scheffler, a match-play debutant and hometown hero who ousted Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter in the morning round of 16.

“Being able to take down those two guys… I think my game’s trending in the right direction this week,” Scheffler said.

The Spaniard won the par-three seventh with a three-foot birdie and birdied the par-four ninth from seven feet to pull within one-down, but Scheffler sank a six-foot birdie at the 10th and put his approach inches from the cup to win the par-five 12th and go three-up. Rahm only won one hole from there.

Perez, who moved to Scotland to be with his dentist girlfriend and has embraced Scottish golf culture living near St Andrews, could eclipse his biggest career title at the 2019 European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship.