Justin Rose admitted he had to shut out the fervent support for home favourite Phil Mickelson after taking the scalp of the world number three at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Rose overcame Mickelson, as well as a partisan gallery, to win his second-round match three and one in brilliant sunshine at Dove Mountain.
“My strategy was to to try and birdie every hole, and expecting Phil to do the same,” said Rose.
Asked what he thought of the galleries, Rose continued: “Obviously a bit one-sided, but he’s a popular guy wherever he plays.
“I knew that was going to be the case, but at the same time I had some focusing to do.”
The 26-year-old refused to overplay his surprise victory.
He said: “Obviously it’s nice to beat a player who’s won majors and stuff like Phil, but I’m looking at it as a tournament, not as a ’who’s who’ list of players.”
On a mixed day for the European contingent, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, and Swedes Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth also advanced to the final 16, while Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington were among those eliminated.
Top-seed Tiger Woods also won with a commanding five and four triumph over South African Tim Clark.
But Rose’s performance was the day’s highlight. He was never more than one stroke down against Mickelson, making his move with five birdies in six holes around the turn, but he said the 30-foot par putt he made at the 15th was the key to his victory.
“It’s the first long putt I’ve holed all week,” he said. “It was always going to be a tough game and it proved to be that way. It was really a nip-and-tuck game on the front nine and the early part of the back nine. I just managed to get my nose in front.”
Meanwhile, Poulter emerged victorious from an all-British battle as he proved too good for Bradley Dredge in their second round match, winning three and one.
The 31-year-old was never behind against Cardiff’s Dredge, who won the ninth and 12th holes with birdies to claw back to all square, only to promptly lose the next two holes.
Poulter considered himself lucky not to lose the par-five first hole: “I made quite a cheeky four, rolled in a 20-footer,” he said. “Bradley hit a shot in there to eight feet (for eagle). He was probably expecting to go one up. I was over the moon to walk away with a half.
“He bogeyed the next, I made a good par, and from there I kept putting him under pressure. It was a great game. I think I had six birdies and no bogeys, and that’s pretty tricky to play against, so I was pretty happy with my form.”
Poulter has a good record in this World Golf Championships event, making the semi-finals and the quarter-finals on one occasion each despite competing just three times.
“I like the feeling you get on the first tee,” he said. “It’s very different to stroke play, certainly on a Thursday. You know you’ve only got 18 holes to perform. You’ve got a nice buzz, the adrenaline’s going, and generally when I’m in that frame of mind I perform pretty well.”
It was not a good day for Luke Donald, who squandered a big lead as Australian Aaron Baddeley came from nowhere to win one up.
Donald was three up after 12 holes but stumbled with two bogeys down the stretch. Those mistakes, combined with Baddeley birdies at the 14th and 18th holes, consigned him to defeat.
“I was pretty much in control after 12 holes,” Donald said. “Two-over on the last six holes is not going to get it done. I have only myself to blame.”
Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal also bowed out, beaten two and one by defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, of Australia, in a match of the highest quality.
Ogilvy needed eight birdies to finish off the former Masters champion, who had five front nine birdies before stalling.
It was a bad day for Spain with Sergio Garcia also eliminated by American Charles Howell, who won four and three, only four days after winning the Nissan Open.
Harrington also bowed out against Stewart Cink after a terrible start in which he carded four bogeys in the first six holes.
The Irishman recovered slightly to make a match of it but lost with Cink one up.
Montgomerie also started badly against his good friend Casey, who progressed with a four and three win.