McIlroy, Westwood set for Sunday showdown

Lee Westwood smiles after chipping onto the 16th green while playing Martin Laird during the WGC-Match Play Championship.

Lee Westwood smiles after chipping onto the 16th green while playing Martin Laird during the WGC-Match Play Championship.

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12:26:18 AM ET. 04/17/2014




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MARANA, Ariz. – Rory McIlroy was walking down the stairs toward the driving range when he passed Lee Westwood and gave him the same message he had delivered earlier Saturday in the Match Play Championship.

“See you in the morning,” McIlroy said with a big smile. “Just like I told you.”

In 14 years of this fickle tournament, there has never been a semifinal match so compelling.

McIlroy had another surge on the back nine to put away Bae Sang-moon, 3 and 2. Moments later, Westwood finished off Martin Laird by the same margin, setting up a Sunday showdown with more at stake than just a spot in the championship match.

If either McIlroy or Westwood goes on to win the Match Play Championship, they would go to No. 1 in the world.

“I think with both of us being up there in the world, and both of us with the possibility of going to No. 1, it gives the match definitely an extra little bit of spice,” McIlroy said.

The duel was not lacking spice in the first place.

They were stablemates at International Sports Management until some testy exchanges last year.

Shortly after McIlroy shot 80 in the final round of the Masters to blow a four-shot lead, Westwood got under his skin by saying the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland “has a pull hook in his bag under pressure.” But it was McIlroy who was the first to win a major, setting records at Congressional on his way to an eight-shot win in the U.S. Open.

Later in the year, when McIlroy left Chubby Chandler at ISM, Westwood tweeted that it was a bizarre move. McIlroy quickly un-followed Westwood and Chandler on Twitter.

Both players say their relationship is no different than with other golfers. They don’t spend as much time together, understandable because they no longer have the same manager.

“There’s nothing strained about the relationship between the two of us. It’s still the same as it was,” Westwood said. “Rory said to me before I went out, ‘See you tomorrow morning.’ And then today again there, he said, ‘See, told you.’ That’s the trouble with kids nowadays. They think they’re always right, don’t they?”

A dull day in the desert ended with high anticipation for the final day.

The championship match is at high noon. The McIlroy-Westwood duel gets under way as the sun begins to climb over the high desert.

“I think it’s the match that most people wanted, and definitely the match that I wanted,” McIlroy said.

The other semifinal match Sunday morning features Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson, assuring an American will make it to the final for the first time since Tiger Woods won in 2008.

Mahan played the shortest quarterfinal match in the 14-year history of the event by beating Matt Kuchar, 6 and 5. Wilson, gaining more respect the deeper he goes in the bracket, had an easy time in his 4-and-3 win over Peter Hanson of Sweden.

The 18-hole championship match will start about an hour after the semifinals.

With a strong breeze, firmer conditions, tough hole locations and only four quarterfinal matches, Saturday at Dove Mountain was lacking excitement. For the first time ever, none of the quarterfinals matches reached the 17th hole.

McIlroy and Westwood saved the day.

For starters, it’s the first time the Match Play Championship semifinals have featured two of the top four seeds since 2004, when Woods and Davis Love III advanced. McIlroy is No. 2, and Westwood is No. 3.

Plus, there’s that small matter of No. 1 in the world.

Westwood already has been No. 1 in the world, and said his priority is picking up his first WGC title. McIlroy already is a major champion, and would become the second-youngest player behind Woods to reach No. 1 in the world.

“My priorities were to win major championships and win World Golf Championships because I haven’t ever won any,” Westwood said. “I’ve been at No. 1 couple of times. It would be a different way of thinking to me compared to Rory, who hasn’t been No. 1. He may be thinking about it, but my main goal is to play well – or play as well as I’ve been playing – tomorrow morning and try and win that match.”

Getting to this stage has been relatively easy.

McIlroy had to go to the 18th hole in the opening round, but has had little resistance since then. He took the lead for good over Bae with a birdie on the 11th hole, then stretched his advantage when Bae chopped up the 13th hole and missed the par-4 15th green on the wrong side and had to settle for par.

Westwood had a tougher time Saturday, but not for long.

He had led in 48 of the 49 holes he played through the opening three rounds, and fell behind immediately to Laird. But starting with Laird’s bogey on the sixth, Westwood won four of the next five holes. He holed a 6-foot birdie putt to halve the 13th hole and stay 2 up, then seized command when Laird took three shots to get out of the bunker on the 14th before conceding.

An All-American semifinal is not nearly as surprising as the players in the match.

“I don’t think too many people picked me to win,” Wilson said.

He has a chance to win for the fourth time in 14 months, more than anyone on the PGA Tour in that time, but gets overlooked due to his medium-length off the tee. Wilson makes up for that with smart play and great putting, a deadly combination in this format. Even on the par 5s he couldn’t reach at Dove Mountain, he played to the right angles and kept pressure on Hanson.

Mahan escaped the opening round in 19 holes over Zach Johnson before bulling his way through the bracket with birdies. He only needed pars against Kuchar, whose belly putter went cold on him.

Mahan, who won a WGC title at Firestone two years ago, won five holes with pars against Kuchar. He holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the ninth to go 5-up at the turn, then won the next hole when Kuchar again missed from 6 feet for par.

“Matt couldn’t find the putter today, which is rare for him, because he’s a great putter,” Mahan said. “I got lucky in that aspect. But I played solid, didn’t make any bogeys and didn’t give many holes – and kept the pressure on him. That was nice to do.”

– Associated Press

• • •

5:48 p.m.

Lee Westwood closed out Martin Laird at the par-3 16th hole, earning a 3-and-2 victory and setting up a match with Rory McIlroy in the semifinals.

Westwood played steadily yet again, making four birdies and no bogeys in dispatching Laird.

• • •

McIlroy wins, 3 and 2

5:32 p.m.

With a conceded par at the par-3 16th, Rory McIlroy locked up a place in the semifinals, defeating Sang-moon Bae, 3 and 2.

Rory will play the winner of the Lee Westwood/Martin Laird match, which Westwood leads, 3 up, with three to play after the two matched birdies at No. 15.

• • •

McIlroy birdies the 15th

5:26 p.m.

Rory McIlroy tapped-in for birdie at the driveable par-4 15th, taking a 3-up lead on Sang-moon Bae with three holes to play.

Meanwhile, Martin Laird failed to get out of a bunker at the 14th hole, making bogey and conceding the hole to Lee Westwood.

Westwood now leads that match, 3 up, with four holes to play.

• • •

Missed opportunities

5:16 p.m.

Rory McIlroy and Sang-moon Bae both missed birdie putts inside 10 feet at the par-4 14th hole and halved with pars, leaving McIlroy 2 up.

Likewise, Martin Laird was not able to sink a 12-foot eagle putt at the par-4 13th, matching birdies with Lee Westwood.

Westwood remains 2 up in that match.

• • •

McIlroy takes advantage

5:02 p.m.

Rory McIlroy took a 2-up lead over Sang-moon Bae with an up-and-down birdie from the bunker at the par-5 13th. Bae found the fairway bunker with his tee shot and had an awkward lie, hitting his second into the desert and missing the green with his third and fourth shots.

• • •

Laird gets one back

4:51 p.m.

Martin Laird won the par-5 11th with a birdie to whittle his deficit to 2 down against Lee Westwood.

Prior to the 11th hole, Westwood had won four of the past five holes.

• • •

McIlroy moves to 1 up

4:37 p.m.

After nearly holing an eagle chip at the par-5 11th, Rory McIlroy taps in for birdie and takes a 2-up lead over Sang-moon Bae.

Lee Westwood, meanwhile, is 3 up on Martin Laird after another Laird bogey, which came at the par-4 10th.

• • •

Westwood moves to 2 up

4:15 p.m.

Lee Westwood has taken a 2-up lead over Martin Laird after Laird bogeyed the ninth. Laird has made three bogeys after winning the opening hole.

Meanwhile, after taking an unplayable lie, Rory McIlroy makes bogey at No. 10, while Sang-moon Bae makes par and squares the match.

• • •

McIlroy regains the lead

3:48 p.m.

Rory McIlroy rolled in a 10-foot birdie at No. 8 to take a 1 up lead over Sang-moon Bae, whose birdie attempt from off the green missed.

Lee Westwood also took his first lead of the day at No. 7, when Martin Laird missed a 7-foot par putt. Westwood leads, 1 up.

• • •

Wilson into semifinals

3:35 p.m.

Mark Wilson continues to roll through the event, polishing off a 4-and-3 win over Peter Hanson with a birdie at the short par-4 15th.

Wilson will take on Hunter Mahan in the semifinals, guaranteeing that there will be an American in the final for the first time since 2008, when Stewart Cink lost to Tiger Woods.

Meanwhile, Lee Westwood squared his match with Martin Laird with a par at No. 6.

• • •

Wilson extends lead

3:25 p.m.

Mark Wilson extended his lead to 4 up over Peter Hanson after Hanson bogeyed the 14th hole. They'll head to the driveable par-4 15th with Hanson in a dormie situation.

• • •

Mahan into final four

3:16 p.m.

Well, the last few holes were more of a formality, but Hunter Mahan closed out Matt Kuchar with a birdie at the 13th hole.

Mahan, who won 6 and 5, will play the winner of the Mark Wilson/Peter Hanson match.

• • •

Birdie-birdie

2:57 p.m.

Rory McIlroy and Sang-moon Bae halved with birdies at the par-4 fourth, with Rory's putt finally dropping after circling the cup. The match remains all square.

• • •

McIlroy drops one

2:45 p.m.

Rory McIlroy hit his tee shot in the water at the par-3 third, while Sang-moon Bae made par to square the match.

• • •

Kuchar drops another

2:39 p.m.

Matt Kuchar missed another short putt at No. 10 to drop to 6 down in his match against Hunter Mahan with just eight holes to play.

Meanwhile, Mark Wilson has taken a 2-up lead over Peter Hanson through No. 11, winning three of the past four holes.

• • •

Laird strikes first

2:32 p.m.

Martin Laird hit an excellent approach into the first hole and rolled in a birdie from 7 feet to take a 1-up lead over Lee Westwood.

Sang-moon Bae and Rory McIlroy both missed birdies from about 10 feet at the second hole to halve with pars.

• • •

Mahan's first birdie

2:23 p.m.

Hunter Mahan takes a 5-up lead into the back nine after a birdie at No. 9. It was his first birdie of the day, despite his 5-up lead.

Up ahead, Mark Wilson regained a 1-up lead over Peter Hanson with a win at No. 10.

• • •

McIlroy wasting no time

2:16 p.m.

Playing Sang-moon Bae, Rory McIlroy wastes no time grabbing the lead, putting his approach at the first inside 10 feet and rolling in the birdie putt to take a 1-up lead.

• • •

Mahan maintains

2:09 p.m.

Looking to get back in it, Matt Kuchar made a birdie at the eighth, but Hunter Mahan knocked in his 10-footer for birdie to halve the hole and remain 4 up.

In the back-and-forth match, Peter Hanson won the par-4 ninth to square the match against Mark Wilson.

• • •

Mahan wins another

1:53 p.m.

Playing the par-4 seventh, Hunter Mahan increased his lead to 4 up over Matt Kuchar, as Kuchar stumbled with another bogey.

Mahan has still made nothing but pars, but leads comfortably.

Elsewhere, Mark Wilson and Peter Hanson are playing a steady match, but Wilson rolls in a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 8 to take a 1 up lead.

• • •

Kuchar's struggles continue

1:41 p.m.

Matt Kuchar is 3 down to Hunter Mahan after making a bogey at the par-3 sixth.

But here's the catch: Mahan has not made any birdies. Instead, Kuchar has made three bogeys.

• • •

Mahan jumps 2 up

1:29 p.m.

Matt Kuchar was not able to convert on a 5-foot downhill par putt at the fifth, losing another hole to Hunter Mahan, who now stands 2 up in the match.

Up ahead, Mark Wilson bogeyed the par-3 sixth, squaring his match with Peter Hanson.

• • •

Mahan out front

12:57 p.m.

Hunter Mahan took a 1-up lead over Matt Kuchar with a two-putt par at the par-3 third.

Kuchar found the water with his tee shot and was not able to hole his third for par, taking the pressure off Mahan.

• • •

Getting away with one

12:49 p.m.

Hunter Mahan got away with one at No. 2, earning a halve against Matt Kuchar.

Mahan hit his tee shot in a fairway bunker, tried to lay up – hitting another bunker – and hit a poor bunker shot to a tight pin. He made a long two-putt par, which was good enough for a halve when Matt Kuchar missed his 6-foot birdie attempt. The match remains all square.

• • •

No blood

12:38 p.m.

Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar halved the first hole with a pair of two-putt pars.

Meanwhile, Peter Hanson and Mark Wilson matched birdies at No. 2, keeping Wilson at 1 up.

• • •

Hanson trails for first time

12:16 p.m.

Peter Hanson has not trailed at all at the WGC-Match Play Championship. . . until now.

Both playing from inside 120 yards, Peter Hanson and Mark Wilson both missed the green at No. 1. Wilson got up-and-down for par, but Hanson wasn't able to do so.

Wilson leads, 1 up, after No. 1.

• • •

Match Play experience overrated?

11:59 a.m.

Matt Kuchar is a former U.S. Amateur champion and a 2011 semifinalist at this event, so he is no stranger to match play success.

However, in his pre-round interview with the Golf Channel, Kuchar made an interesting admission when asked about the importance of match-play experience.

"It's nice, but I think it's just the person that's playing the best golf is going to win today," Kuchar said. "I try to keep a stroke-play mindset for the most part. There are a few times where that changes, but not many."

Kuchar will play Hunter Mahan in the 12:20 p.m. EST group.

• • •

Westwood rolls in Round 3

On an otherwise flat Friday, Lee Westwood was marvelous in dismantling American Nick Watney. Story

• • •

Quarterfinals predictions

Jim McCabe makes his picks. Here's who he plans to see in the final four. Story

• • •

Round 3 recap

Take a look back at how everything unfolded in the Round of 16. Story

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