Merrick beats Roos in tough Match Play meeting

It was bittersweet for Merrick Bremner on Thursday as he played his way into the last 16 of the ISPS Handa South African Match Play Championship at the expense of his good friend Jake Roos.

He defeated the 12th seeded Roos 1-up, and for a pair of friends whose wives walked the Zwartkop Country Club course with them, the handshake was as heartfelt as Bremner’s sympathy.

“Jake’s a really good friend of mine, so I didn’t really want someone to win,” said Bremner. “I wish it could have been a half, but someone’s got to win, and, luckily, today it was me.”

For friends, the match could hardly have been more difficult: While Roos was 2-up after nine holes, Bremner had levelled things by the 12th and gone 1-up by 13 – and things were all-square again on 14.

Then, on the 144-metre 17th, Roos hit his tee shot into the water hazard. With Bremner on the green, Roos decided that his ball, plugged right on the waterline, was perhaps playable. He took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his trousers, and made an unsuccessful attempt to get it out.

So it was off to the 498-metre par-five 18th: Bremner used his driving power to muscle it up the left side of the fairway, and Roos put his second 30 feet from the pin. Bremner put his third close enough to force Roos to go for his eagle putt, which he missed, and the match was conceded.

“I don’t want to come up 18 again in the next round,” said Bremner, “so I hope I can seal the deal before the end.”

He will meet Jared Harvey in the next round. Harvey defeated Dean Burmester 4&3, having grabbed his chance as a qualifier for the tournament with both hands. He got six ahead by the 10th, and although Burmester started getting a few things going his way, the margin was enough for Harvey to coast home.

Top seed Darren Fichardt was involved in a great battle with James Kamte, with both players producing some fine golf. In the end, Fichardt held on to win 1-up. “I knew James was going to be a tough competitor,” said Fichardt. “He’s a good ball striker, and he’s a great putter, and in match-play, that’s key. We had a good tussle today.”

Besides Fichardt, Jaco Ahlers is the highest remaining seed after his 5&3 win over Warren Abery, while number eight Doug McGuigan beat Irvin Mazibuko 5&4 and ninth seed Tyrone Ferreira prevailed over Alex Haindl 3&2.

But 10th seed Ulrich van den Berg fell in a tremendous battle with 49-year-old Hendrik Buhrmann in another match that went down to the final hole.

The day’s biggest win came for Colin Nel who beat Allan Versfeld 6&5.”Allan just battled a bit to get going, and it helps when you’re on form and your opponent is struggling a little bit,” said Nel, who will now meet Fichardt.

And, for Bremner, the match against Harvey brings with it the prospect of victory or defeat for a friend again. “It’ll be fun,” said Bremner, but he sounded doubtful.

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