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Somebody Up There Likes Me
by Mike Panozzo Jul 19, 2003, 6:18 PM EST

Pagulayan celebrated, while Drago stewed in Cardiff.

Destiny’s child took yet another referee-aided step toward the world championship Saturday night at the Cardiff International Arena. Impish Alex Pagulayan, "The Killer Pixie" as he’s called on Sky Sports, moved into the title match of the 2003 empirepoker.com World Pool Championship with a sound 11-6 win over snooker pro Tony Drago at Cardiff International Arena in Wales Saturday night.

Despite the five-game spread, the match ended in controversy when referee Nigel Reese called a foul on Drago for allegedly touching an object ball with the side of his bridge hand. The incident marked the third consecutive match in which Pagulayan’s clinching game featured a referee’s decision in his favor.

"The Emminem song that says, ‘This looks like a job for me," keeps going through my head," said the 24-year Canadian. "I’m so excited."

Drago, meanwhile, was adamant about his innocence on the foul in question.

"I swear on my father’s grave I never touched that ball," said the Maltese snooker pro. "I’ve called fouls against myself for 20 years in snooker tournaments. And if I make it 10-7 and I’m breaking, I still have a chance. I’m absolutely gutted."

Pagulayan, who finished second in the 2002 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship and second in the 2003 Sands Open in Reno, led throughout the match. He bolted to leads of 4-0 and 9-3 before the lightening-fast Drago began chipping away.
"I was breaking well tonight," said Drago, ranked 24th in the World Snooker Association. "But even though I’m disappointed, I loved every minute of this tournament. I plan to play more 9-ball, and would like to play in the U.S. some time."

Still, Pagulayan won’t be the biggest surprise in the finale. German Thorsten Hohmann, 24, earned his spot alongside Pagulayan in Sunday night’s title match with a shockingly easy 11-4 win over defending champion Earl Strickland of the U.S. Noticeably listless, Strickland scratched four times in the first seven racks, and trailed by as much as 8-2 at one point. Hohmann, controlling the break and making precious few mistakes, pounded away mercilessly, while Strickland virtually sleepwalked through the match, at one point failing to realize that a Hohmann break had left the table open.

"The Yang match took a lot out of me," said the 42-year-old American of his 11-9 quarterfinal win over the highly rated Taiwanese star. "I had nothing left. This is a tough tournament for us old guys. I just wasn’t ready to play."

"I was nervous the whole time," admitted Hohmann, who finished second and third in a pair of International Billiard Council World Tour events in 2002. "I just tried to concentrate on my breathing."

The Sunday championship match, with $65,000 set aside for the winner and $30,000 for the runnerup, won’t be the first meeting between Hohmann and Pagulayan. The pair met in Cardiff in 2001 in the round of 64. Hohmann won that meeting, 9-8.

Strickland and Drago earned $17,500 each from the $300,000 prize fund for their semifinal appearances.

For complete Group standings, and Final 64 pairings, visit: http://www.worldpoolchampionship.com/results.asp

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