(Reuters) – Americans Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson are set for a heavyweight showdown at the WGC-Dell Match Play after winning their quarter-finals in Texas on Saturday.
Second seed Thomas, in brilliant form all week, continued his hot run with a 2&1 win over fellow American Kyle Stanley at Austin Country Club.
Watson was even more dominant, thrashing Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat 5&3, and Swedish 13th seed Alex Noren will face American 32nd seed Kevin Kisner in the other semi-final on Sunday morning.
Noren beat Australian Cameron Smith 4&2 while Kisner crushed Englishman Ian Poulter 8&6.
Thomas did not play quite as smoothly against Stanley as in his previous two matches, both of which only went 13 holes, but still had enough in the tank.
“I played well,” he told Golf Channel.
“I just didn’t get off to the same start that I have been. Missed a couple of short putts but made my share as well. It was able to get me a little bit coasting on the back nine.”
Thomas is projected to assume the world number one ranking from fellow American Dustin Johnson if he makes the final on Sunday but he will have to overcome 35th seed Watson, a two-times U.S. Masters champion who won the Los Angeles tour stop at Riviera last month.
“I keep advancing, so that’s the key,” Watson said before explaining how his equipment company had adjusted the loft of his putter.
“They basically took over my putting and said here’s what we’re doing for you. It’s been working the last couple of weeks and obviously in LA it worked pretty good.”
Noren, meanwhile, was too good for 46th-ranked Smith, though it was not all smooth sailing for the Swede.
“The middle of the round he played good and I had a few hiccups,” Noren said.
“He burnt the edges a lot of times and I was fortunate. It could have gone either way and then I stepped it up at the end.”
Noren has come close to winning this year, a playoff loser to Jason Day at Torrey Pines in San Diego in January.
Kisner’s match against 58th seed Poulter was one-sided from the start.
“His bad holes I didn’t mess up and I made a few birdies to throw in there,” Kisner said.
“I think my mentality fits the format well but I hadn’t been playing well coming into it, so I did a lot of prep this week and starting to see some results out here. Finally starting to make some birdies.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, Editing by Ed Osmond)