It’s rare to hear Ernie Els describe his week at the Match Play Championship as ‘‘wonderful.’’
He’s usually not around long enough to say anything at all.
This time, the wacky world of match play is working in his favor. Even though Els has made more bogeys than birdies, even though he didn’t break par at Dove Mountain until his quarterfinal match Saturday, the 44-year-old South African is two matches away from claiming another World Golf Championship.
Els made birdie from the desert on the par-5 eighth hole to take the lead for good against 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, and then pulled away for a 4-and-2 victory in Marana, Ariz., to reach the semifinals for the first time in 13 years.
‘‘At times I haven’t played my best, as you guys have well documented and know,’’ Els said with a laugh. ‘‘But it’s match play. I've just done enough to get through.’’
Graeme McDowell was the only other player who felt lucky to still be around, but his luck ran out against Victor Dubuisson of France.
McDowell had reached the quarterfinals even though he never led a single hole while any of his previous three matches were in progress. He finally took a lead — 60 holes into this tournament — and wound up losing.
Dubuisson hit a beautiful chip from the rough in front of a corporate suite behind the 16th green to save par, while McDowell missed a 6-foot putt to lose the hole. Dubuisson saved par with another superb chip behind the 17th green, and had one more in his bag from below the 18th green to save yet another par. McDowell narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt that would have extended the match.
Els plays Dubuisson, a rising star in the European ranks, in the semifinals on Sunday morning. The championship match will follow.
Jason Day reached the semifinals for the second straight year with a 2-and-1 win over Louis Oosthuizen, who played with a nagging back injury. Rickie Fowler lost a 3-up lead to Arizona grad Jim Furyk, only to win the last two holes for a 1-up victory.
LPGA — Swede Anna Nordqvist shot a 5-under-par 67 at the LPGA Thailand in Chonburi for a four-stroke lead over top-ranked Inbee Park and American Michelle Wie. Nordqvist is at 11-under 205. Park shot 67 and Wie 69.