Rafa Cabrera-Bello reaches Match Play semis to earn Masters debut
By Keith Jackson @KeithDJackson
Last Updated: 26/03/16 11:03pm
Rafa Cabrera-Bello continued his dream run at the WGC-Dell Match Play as he beat Ryan Moore to reach the semi-finals in Texas.
Cabrera-Bello had earlier punched his ticket to the Masters with his last-16 win over BMW PGA champion Byeong-Hun An, who was four down after 11 holes before being forced to withdraw due to a neck injury.
The Spaniard was never behind in his quarter-final clash with Moore, and he completed a hard-fought 2&1 win on the 17th to earn a last-four shot at former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, who scored an impressive 2&1 victory over Dustin Johnson.
Cabrera-Bello was gifted the opening hole when Moore took five shots just to reach the putting surface, but the world No 52 did likewise at the third before reclaiming the lead when he holed from eight feet for birdie at the fifth.
Moore could not match his opponent's birdie at the next and fell two behind, but the deficit was halved at the eighth when Cabrera-Bello failed to save par from 10 feet.
The pair halved the next six holes before Cabrera-Bello struck a decisive blow at the 15th, where his superb wedge from 124 yards almost found the cup and finished just six inches from the pin for a winning birdie.
Cabrera-Bello faltered at the next when he pulled his drive into water, but he regained his composure to get up and down from 94 yards to salvage a half in par, and Moore missed the chance to take the match down the last when his birdie attempt from seven feet at 17 slid past the target.
"I'm playing really good, and every day is adding on the confidence," said Cabrera-Bello, who is assured of making his Masters debut at Augusta in a fortnight. "I think I've improved and grown as a player, and I consider myself stronger mentally as well. This week I'm really enjoying myself out here."
Oosthuizen silenced the Texan fans earlier in the day when he claimed the scalp of world No 1 and local favourite Jordan Spieth, and he followed that up with a battling win over Johnson despite being behind at the turn.
A 25-foot putt for birdie got the South African back to all-square at the 10th, and he went ahead for the first time in the match at the next when Johnson three-putted from the back of the green.
The pair matched each other error for error at a comical 12th, where they both pulled their second shots into the water from the same fairway bunker and halved the hole in bogey sixes.
But Oosthuizen doubled his advantage when he knocked a sublime approach to three feet at the 15th, although Johnson responded with a well-crafted birdie at the long 16th.
Johnson then laced his tee shot to six feet at the par-three 17th, but Oosthuizen drained his birdie putt from 25 feet and the American missed his chance to take the match the distance.