“It’s matchplay, you have to be aggressive and with the soft greens here you can fire at the pins,” Luiten said. “I’m playing the most consistent golf of my career and I suppose that in terms of energy it is good not to have gone down the stretch.”
It could prove vital. Standing between Luiten and the afternoon final is a morning semi-final against Mikko Ilonen, the Finn who saw off France’s Victor Dubuisson two-up.
While Luiten has played the best golf to this point in Kent, the overwhelming favourite is the world No 5 and No 1 seed, Henrik Stenson. The Swede survived a fightback from his compatriot Jonas Blixt to bring golf’s matchplay double into tantalising focus. Only Ian Poulter has won both the WGC Matchplay crown and this, the original World Match Play, which this year is marking its 50th anniversary.
Stenson lifted the WGC title in Tucson seven years ago and is overdue a victory this season. “I was three-up with five to play and Jonas came back to take it down the last,” Stenson said. “That’s not fair on old man like me.”
Next up for Stenson is the South African George Coetzee who has taken maximum advantage of his late call-up, due to Thomas Bjorn’s withdrawal at the start of the week. Coetzee was first reserve and almost flew back home. He is mighty glad he stayed, after succeeding where Europe failed in defeating Patrick Reed, America’s top points-scorer at Gleneagles, 2&1.
Having accounted for Jamie Donaldson and Paul Casey the previous two days, Reed’s run came to a high-class conclusion. The pair played against each other in Tucson earlier this year, when Coetzee went through to the third round on the third extra hole. Yet, as Reed explained, this was a contrasting encounter.
“Back in February, that was a match where we both played very poorly and which was almost like a pillow fight,” Reed said. “It was totally different today. We both played really well; 14-under as a pair, with neither of us having a bogey. Any time you go bogey-free and shoot six-under through 17 you to expect win the match. But I just happened to do that and he clipped me.”
Nevertheless, it has been a rewarding experience for Reed, not least because the quarter-final losers each took home E100,000. The 24-year-old was the pantomime villain at Gleneagles, as he went all “Poulter” with his celebrations, but the London Club crowds took him to their hearts.
“It’s been a blast and it’s just a shame I couldn’t get them going today with a few more birdies,” Reed said. “The PGA Tour is obviously home for me, but I’m keen to play overseas as much as I can and will be looking at my schedule to see when I can get back over here next.”