Golf

McIlroy, Westwood to clash

2012-02-26 11:57
Rory McIlroy (AP)
Marana - Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood set up a mouth-watering duel in the last four of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship when they each completed comfortable victories in Saturday's quarter-finals.

Northern Ireland's world No 2 McIlroy never trailed before beating South Korean Bae Sang-moon 3&2 while third-ranked Westwood won 4&2 against fellow Briton Martin Laird at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

Either McIlroy or Westwood can depose Luke Donald as world No 1 by winning Sunday's final, adding extra spice to their semi-final encounter on Sunday morning.

"This is why we practise, this is why we work so hard," McIlroy told reporters after reaching his first Match Play semi-final in four appearances. "You want to try to beat the best.

"I'll really enjoy out there tomorrow morning battling away and obviously trying to beat Lee. It's the match that most people wanted and definitely the match that I wanted."

Earlier on Saturday, Hunter Mahan crushed fellow American Matt Kuchar 6&5 in their quarterfinal and will meet compatriot Mark Wilson, a 4&3 winner over Swede Peter Hanson.

McIlroy, at 22 aiming to become the youngest ever Match Play champion, piled up six birdies to keep continual pressure on Bae, who had ousted 2010 winner Ian Poulter and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel in earlier rounds.

"I don't think Moon had his best with him today," McIlroy said after a breezy, sun-splashed day at Dove Mountain. "I felt like I played pretty well. I played solid golf and did what I had to do. I'm just very happy to be through."

Westwood, who had never reached the third round in his 11 previous appearances at the event, was delighted to be in contention for one of the game's biggest titles.

"My priorities this year were to win major championships and World Golf Championships because I haven't ever won any," the 38-year-old Englishman said.

"You want to win the big tournaments where the best players are playing, and I've given myself a great chance early in the year to do that."

Westwood, who had never trailed in his previous three matches this week, was one down after five holes before winning four of the next five to take control.

"I played solidly," said the Briton, a winner of 21 events on the European Tour and long established as one of the game's best players. "I didn't make a bogey.

"Martin gave me (conceded) a couple of birdies and I made three others. Five under par is solid golf."

Mahan became the first player to reach the last four, making four birdies in six holes to end his match against an error-prone Kuchar at the par-five 13th.

"Today the course is playing tougher, I didn't make as many birdies," Mahan said after recording the largest margin of victory in the quarterfinals.

"Matt didn't play as well as he can or usually does. It made it easier to win a few holes with par. I played solid, didn't make any bogeys ... and I kept the pressure on him."

In the top match, Hanson bogeyed the opening hole to trail for the first time this week and though he got back to all square by the turn he began to unravel as he bogeyed 10 and 11.

Rock-steady Wilson won the par-five 13th with a birdie, after deftly chipping from just short of the green to three feet, and the 14th, where Hanson bogeyed, to go four up.

"It was nice to hole about a 10-footer to win the match on 15 after he was in with birdie," Wilson said after reaching the semi-finals for the first time.

Results on Saturday from the Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain (seeds in parentheses):

Quarter-finals


Mark Wilson (40), United States, def. Peter Hanson (33), Sweden, 4 and 3.
Hunter Mahan (21), United States, def. Matt Kuchar (13), United States, 6 and 5.
Rory McIlroy (2), Northern Ireland, def. Bae Sang-moon (42), South Korea 3 and 2.
Lee Westwood (3), England, def. Martin Laird (38), Scotland, 3 and 2.

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