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Norman, Hoch easily win semifinal matches

January 4, 1997

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Greg Norman vs. Hisayuki Sasaki was little more than a walkover. Scott Hoch against Sam Torrance took longer.

In the end, though, the inevitable happened Saturday in semifinal matches of the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf.

Norman, the white-thatched Aussie who has won more PGA money than anyone in history, needed 14 holes to defeat Sasaki, the Japanese champion, 5 and 4.

He ended the match with typical brilliance, chipping in from a bunker about 18 feet from the pin for his seventh birdie. The ball arced, bounced twice and hit the stick and dropped into the hole.

Hoch beat Torrance, a Scot who won the European section, 4 and 2, with his seventh birdie in a round that also included an eagle. He was 9-under when the match ended two shots shy of a full round.

Norman and Hoch will play a 36-hole match Sunday, with the winner pocketing $1 million for winning the tournament in its second year. Sasaki and Torrance have an 18-hole match for third place.

Barry Lane of England beat South Africa’s David Frost in the final last year, but neither made it out of the qualifying round this time.

The $3.65 million event offers golf’s largest purse, with $2.28 million already distributed to contestants and winners of Japanese, European, United States and International sectionals last spring and summer.

Sasaki birdied the first hole, but Norman won the next four with a birdie-birdie-par-birdie series while Sasaki had three pars and one bogey. Norman’s 2-foot birdie putt on No. 5, a 153-yard par-3, lifted him to a three-stroke lead.

Sasaki, 32, of Tokyo, made 13 cuts in 20 tournaments last year as a PGA Tour rookie but lost his playing card because he finished nine places out of the top 150 on the money list. He was clearly out of his element against Norman, the world’s top-ranked player.

Sasaki’s last realistic chance to put some pressure on Norman lapsed on No. 7 when his approach shot on the 402-yard par-4 stopped 5 1/2 feet from the pin. A birdie could have cut the deficit to two strokes, but the putt slipped past the cup on the right.

Norman quickly made him pay, going 4-up with a birdie on No. 9 and 5-up with another on No. 10. where Sasaki missed a 5-foot putt for par.

Hoch’s eagle-2 on the 427-yard fourth hole trumped one of Torrance’s five birdies on the front nine.

Hoch was 1-up at the turn, and the match went south for Torrance on the back nine when he bogeyed the 10th, 15th and 16th holes.

Torrance chipped in for an eagle-3 on No. 14, leaving Hoch 2-up. But on the next hole, he left a 6-foot putt for par short, and Hoch regained the three-shot lead. He finished it with a birdie on No. 16.

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