MARANA, Ariz. – Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy suddenly have more at stake than the Match Play Championship.
Westwood, who has led 48 of the 49 holes he has played this week, got a small measure of revenge against Nick Watney and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-and-2 victory on Friday at Dove Mountain. Watney had eliminated him each of the last two years.
McIlroy built a 3-up lead at the turn and hung on to beat Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, 2 and 1.
Westwood or McIlroy would go to No. 1 in the world with the title in this World Golf Championship. If they win their quarterfinal matches Saturday, they would meet in the semifinals Sunday morning.
“It’s a nice incentive,” McIlroy said. “It’s nice to have in the back of your mind. And if you’re struggling in a match and find it hard to get yourself up, or get any sort of momentum, if you think about that and you think if you can really dig deep, you still have a chance to become No. 1.”
Westwood was at No. 1 a year ago, and it’s a less of a priority than to capture his first World Golf Championship.
One year after Luke Donald became the first Match Play champion to never trail all week – Donald never even played the 18th hole in his six matches – Westwood is look every bit as dominant.
He is equipped with an improved short game, and it has carried him along the high desert. Westwood put away Watney for good with a pitch up a steep slope to the top tier on the 15th green, the ball so close that Watney picked it up for him.
Westwood had never made it out of the second round in 11 previous trips to this fickle tournament.
“I’m just happy to be looking for a different restaurant for Friday night,” Westwood said. “I had a little chuckle watching The Golf Channel on Wednesday morning and listening to them make all their predictions and things like that. I don’t think they got many right.”
And where did the prognosticators have Westwood?
“On the BA 289 on Thursday night,” he said, referring to his usual British Airways flight.
Westwood next plays Martin Laird, who won the battle of Scotland by taking down former British Open champion Paul Lawrie, 3 and 1.
Next up for McIlroy is Bae Sang-moon of South Korea, the surprise in his first Match Play Championship. Bae won three times last year on the Japan Golf Tour. And while he made it through Q-school to earn a PGA Tour card, he ended last year at No. 30 in the world.
He is no stranger in global golf, as McIlroy knows all too well.
They played in the final group of the Korea Open in 2009, where McIlroy and Kim Dae-sub were tied for the 54-hole lead. Bae closed with a 67 and beat them both.
Bae had the only match that went 18 holes in one of the dullest third rounds ever at the Match Play Championship. He took a 1-up lead on the 16th hole against John Senden when the Australian played a poor chip. Senden missed a 20-foot birdie putt to square the match on the 18th, and Bae completed a long two-putt par with a 5-footer.
“He’s been very impressive this week,” McIlroy said.
In other matches:
• Hunter Mahan took advantage of some mental lapses by Steve Stricker to build a big lead and held on for a 4-and-3 win. Mahan will play Matt Kuchar, a 4-and-3 winner against Martin Kaymer, a finalist last year at Dove Mountain. That assures there will be an American in the semifinals at the Match Play for the first time since 2009.
• One year after Mark Wilson was drubbed in the second round by big-hitting Bubba Watson, he overwhelmed another power player by beating Dustin Johnson for the second straight year. Johnson was too wild too often and couldn’t make putts, a bad combination in match play. Wilson will play Peter Hanson of Sweden, who dismantled Brandt Snedeker during a quiet, effective march to the quarterfinals.
“I know people keep talking about how I hit it so short that I can’t compete,” said Wilson, who has won three times on the PGA Tour in the last 14 months. “First of all, I don’t hit it very short. And secondly, it all comes down to putting. It really does. So I just don’t know how many times I have to explain it.”
Watney eliminated Tiger Woods on the 18th hole Thursday, despite a poor round of putting. His stroke didn’t get much better, and that left him little chance against Westwood.
Watney’s only hope for a shift in momentum came on the par-5 13th, when he was 10 feet away for birdie. Westwood was just short of the green in two, and his pitch hit the flag and caromed about 12 feet away. The Englishman holed his birdie putt to stay 3 up, and they halved holes the rest of the way.
“I couldn’t sit at his lunch table,” Watney said, poking fun at Kobe Bryant’s comment about the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Stricker holed a 20-foot birdie on the fifth hole that looked as if it would square the match until Mahan matched him with a birdie from 15 feet just off the green. Two holes later, Mahan took the lead. Stricker hit a driver into the desert on the 10th to lose the hole, then pulled his 3-wood into the desert on the next hole.
Stricker knew he was doomed on the par-3 12th, when he watched Mahan roll in a 55-foot birdie putt with perfect pace. Stricker stood off the green and smiled, walked over to retrieve the ball from the cup and started to hand it to Mahan. Then he stopped, and heaved the ball into the grandstand as Mahan laughed.
– Associated Press
• • •
Bae defeats Senden, 1 up
Sang-moon Bae didn’t make the same mistake twice.
After missing a 5-footer at No. 17 that would have closed out his match with John Senden, Bae had a similar putt at No. 18 and made good, defeating Senden, 1 up.
• • •
With a chance to put the match away, Sang-moon Bae missed a 5-footer for birdie at No. 17 that would have put the match away against John Senden.
Bae, who leads 1 up, found the bunker off the tee at No. 18, while Senden found the fairway.
• • •
McIlroy defeats Jimenez, 3 and 1
Rory McIlroy is moving on to the quarterfinals, defeating Miguel Angel Jimenez, 3 and 1, after Jimenez hit a poor chip at No. 17.
McIlroy, who made three birdies in the win, will play the winner of the John Senden/Sang-moon Bae match.
• • •
Jimenez enters must-win situation
Rory McIlroy and Miguel Angel Jimenez halved the par-3 16th with pars, meaning the Mechanic is now 2 down with two to play.
Meanwhile, John Senden’s eagle putt at the 15th lips out. Senden taps in for birdie and Bae can’t match him. The match is now all square headed to the 16th.
• • •
What a drive! . . . and another!
Miguel Angel Jimenez hit a beautiful driver into the driveable par-4 15th, nestling his ball 25 feet from the hole for eagle. But Rory McIlroy then hit the same shot. . . with a 3-wood.
Both players made birdie and McIlroy heads to the 16th leading 2 up.
• • •
Wilson defeats Johnson. . . again
For the second straight year, short-hitting Mark Wilson sent Dustin Johnson packing.
Wilson, who said after the round that Johnson was feeling a bit “under the weather” won the match, 4 and 3.
Meanwhile, Martin Laird defeated fellow Scot Paul Lawrie, 3 and 1. Laird will face Lee Westwood in the quarterfinals.
• • •
McIlroy’s wedge woes
Rory McIlroy duffed a chip shot at the 13th, going underneath a flop shot and missing the green from long-right. He was able to get up-and-down for par, but Miguel Angel Jimenez rolled in a birdie on top of him to get back to 2 down.
• • •
Hanson closes out Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker is used to overcoming deficits in his PGA Tour victories, but that wasn’t the case today. Ryder Cupper Peter Hanson closed out Snedeker, 5 and 3, with a long two-putt at the 15th hole.
Hanson made eight birdies in his victory over Snedeker.
Hanson will likely face Mark Wilson, who leads Dustin Johnson 4 up with four to play.
• • •
Westwood knocks out Watney
After a brilliant round of golf, Lee Westwood dispatched Nick Watney with a simple two-putt at the 16th hole, earning a 3-and-2 victory.
Westwood, who has never been past the second round in this event, will take on the winner of the Martin Laird-Peter Lawrie match, which Laird leads, 2 up.
• • •
Dose of his own medicine
After chipping-in three times this week, Dustin Johnson was on the other end at the 12th in his match against Mark Wilson. Wilson holed a high flop shot from off the green at No. 12 to move to 4 up over Johnson.
Meanwhile, Peter Hanson holes a 5-foot birdie at No. 13 to move to 3 up against Brandt Snedeker.
• • •
Mahan defeats Stricker, 4 and 3
With a long two-putt at the 15th hole, it’s a 4-and-3 victory for Hunter Mahan over Steve Stricker.
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Kuchar downs Kaymer, 4 and 3
Martin Kaymer fails to win the 15th hole and officially loses to Matt Kuchar, 4 and 3.
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Stricker eagles No. 13
Steve Stricker rolled his second shot to 5 feet at the par-5 13th, making the putt for eagle and getting back to 4 down against Hunter Mahan.
Rory McIlroy increased his lead to 3 up over Miguel Angel Jimenez with a 5-foot birdie at No. 9.
Dustin Johnson trails Mark Wilson, 3 down, while John Senden has battled back to square his match with Sang-moon Bae.
• • •
Kuchar 4 up over Kaymer
With a birdie at the par-5 13th, Matt Kuchar has taken a 4-up lead over No. 1 seed Martin Kaymer.
Hunter Mahan, meanwhile drops a long birdie at the par-3 12th that causes Steve Stricker to pick the ball out of the hole and playfully throw it into the crowd.
Stricker trails Mahan, 5 down, with six holes to play.
Snedeker wins yet another hole, this time the par-4 10th, and he is now just 1 down.
• • •
McIlroy moves to 2 up
Rory McIlroy stuffed his tee shot at the par-4 seventh inside 2 feet for a conceded birdie. He’s now 2 up over Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Brandt Snedeker has won two consecutive holes over Peter Hanson to cut his defect in half to 2 down.
• • •
Kaymer staying alive
Martin Kaymer won the par-3 12th over Matt Kuchar, but he remains 3 down with six to play.
Lee Westwood, who has never made it past the second round in 12 appearances at the Match Play, continues to roll, making the turn with a 3-up lead over Nick Watney.
Steve Stricker got a win over Hunter Mahan with a par at the ninth, but Mahan answered back with a win at the 10th. He remains 3 up.
• • •
Mahan keeps rolling
Hunter Mahan won Nos. 7 and 8 to take a 3-up lead over Steve Stricker. Mahan made par at the par-4 seventh and made birdie at the par-5 eighth.
Rory McIlroy went back to 1-up against Miguel Angel Jimenez, making a conceded birdie at No. 4.
Lee Westwood rolled in a 5-foot birdie at No. 8 to take a 2-up lead over Nick Watney, while Sang-moon Bae did the same at No. 3 to go 2-up on John Senden.
• • •
Johnson’s wedge struggles
Dustin Johnson has chipped-in three times this week, but he had some struggles with the wedge at No. 4, watching his third shot roll back to his feet after missing the green. He conceded the hole to Mark Wilson, who is now 2 up.
Rory McIlroy missed a 7-footer for par made bogey at No. 3 to fall back to all square with Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Sang-moon Bae rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at No. 2 to take a 1-up lead over John Senden, handing Senden only his second lost hole of the entire week.
• • •
Wilson def. Johnson, Part II?
Short-hitting Mark Wilson defeated bomber Dustin Johnson last year at Dove Mountain, and he’s leading this year, too.
Wilson knocked in a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 3 to take a 1-up lead on Johnson, who rolled through the Round of 32 with a 7-and-5 win over Francesco Molinari.
Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, took a 1-up lead over Miguel Angel Jimenez, who struggled with a bogey at the par-5 second.
• • •
McIlroy’s quick miss
Not wasting any time, Rory McIlroy hits his approach at the opening hole inside three feet at the first. However, he misses the slippery downhill putt and halves the opening hole with Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Peter Hanson continues to roll, dropping a 30-footer at No. 3 to go 3-up on Brandt Snedeker.
Nick Watney won the third hole with par and halved the fourth in his match against Lee Westwood to get back to 1 down.
Matt Kuchar has won two of the past four holes, one on a concession and one on a birdie at the sixth, to move into a 1-up lead over World No. 4 Martin Kaymer.
• • •
Hanson birdies early
Peter Hanson made a birdie at the first to take a 1-up lead over Brandt Snedeker.
Meanwhile, Martin Laird leads the all-Scot matchup with Paul Lawrie, 2-up. Lawrie bogeyed the first, while Laird earned a win at No. 2 with a birdie.
After losing two of the first three holes, Steve Stricker got one back from Hunter Mahan with a birdie at No. 4. Mahan leads 1 up.
• • •
Mahan, Westwood start fast
Hunter Mahan has birdied two of his opening three holes (par-5 second, par-3 third) in his match against Steve Stricker to take a quick 2-up lead.
Stricker has made three pars.
Likewise, Lee Westwood has taken a quick 2-up lead over Nick Watney, making birdies at his first two holes.
• • •
1:10 p.m. EST
In the first match of the day, Martin Kaymer is taking on Mr. Consistent, Matt Kuchar.
Kaymer has been struggling to find the form that made him World No. 1 a year ago, but he jumps out to an early lead over Kuchar in the Round of 16.
With a birdie at the par-5 second, Kaymer jumps out to a 1-up lead. The two halved the opening hole with birdies.
• • •
Sweet 16 predictions
Match Play predictions: Our Jim McCabe has been on the scene all week and has his picks for who will be advancing to the Elite 8 on Saturday in Arizona. Predictions.
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Tiger has time to fix his putting woes
Jeff Rude: Tiger Woods played wonderfully on Thursday – until he got to the green. There he looked like a lost soul. Woods says he can fix his putting woes, but is it really that simple? Commentary.
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Respect your elders
Match Play notebook: The oldest player in the field, Miguel Angel Jimenez, proved that he can hang with the younger stars by eliminating PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley on Thursday. Notebook.
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Scottish duo knocks off young stars
A potential match between two of golf’s youngest and brightest stars, Ryo Ishikawa and Matteo Manassero, didn’t come to fruition, instead will see a match between Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird. Story.
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Round 2 recap
Tiger Tracker: Even Nick Watney was in shock over this one. Tiger Woods missed a five-foot birdie putt to extend the match, handing Watney a date with Lee Westwood. Tracker.