VIRGINIA WATER, England, Oct 13 (Reuters) Ernie Els stayed on track for a record seventh World Match Play title by brushing aside promising young Argentine Andres Romero 6 and 5 in quarter-finals.
The world number five next meets big-hitting Swede Henrik Stenson, who crushed Anders Hansen 7 and 6 despite the Dane recording only the fourth hole-in-one in the 44-year history of the tournament.
Today's other semi-final is between Argentine Angel Cabrera, a 4 and 3 winner over holder Paul Casey of Britain, and American Hunter Mahan, who ousted Dane Soren Hansen 6 and 4 on a dark, dank day at Wentworth.
Els made the perfect start against Romero yesterday, rolling in a 50-foot birdie putt at the first before marching two up with another birdie at the second.
The 26-year-old Romero, who performed brilliantly to finish third in the British Open at Carnoustie in July, got back to all square when his opponent bogeyed the third and fourth.
Els, however, surged four up at halfway after five birdies in the last eight holes earned him a morning round of 68, four under.
Romero fell further adrift when he took four strokes to find the green at the first hole of the afternoon round and Els went on to wrap up victory when his 38-foot birdie putt disappeared into the cup at the 13th.
''Whenever I play the Match Play I've got a good vibe, a positive vibe,'' the 37-year-old Wentworth resident told reporters. ''Andres didn't have his best day today but he's got a lot of talent.
''I was a little out of sync with my irons this morning. My short game definitely saved me and I made some good putts when I needed to.'' LONG HITTERS Els now faces Stenson, who was an approximate 11 under par in his one-sided match with Anders Hansen.
Stenson had already inflicted enough damage on Hansen before the Dane aced the 184-yard 10th in the second round using a six-iron.
It was the fourth hole-in-one in the event's history after Japan's Isao Aoki (1979), Britain's Brian Barnes (1981) and Dane Thomas Bjorn (2003).
''He just wore me out,'' said Hansen. ''It's tough when you have to make holes-in-one to win a hole.
''He played awesome. If he keeps this up for the next two days he is going to be tough to beat.'' Wentworth specialist Cabrera wrecked hopes of a home winner by easing past Casey.
The match between two of the longest hitters in the game produced a feast of birdies to entertain the galleries.
Cabrera, who won the PGA Championship here in 2005 and has also twice finished runner-up at the European Tour's flagship event, was one up at halfway after both men carded five-under 67s.
The Englishman received a jolt when Cabrera holed from 20 feet at the 19th. Two successive bogeys by Casey at the eighth and ninth put the Argentine four up before a 26-foot birdie putt at the 11th effectively ended the match as a contest.
Cabrera's next opponent is Mahan, who did not need to be at his best to defeat out-of-form Dane Soren Hansen.
REUTERS PDS AS0952