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McIlroy beats Westwood, faces Mahan in final

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy booked his place in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship final after storming back from three down to beat Lee Westwood 3&1 with a scintillating seven-birdie display on Sunday.

Mahan never trailed on his way to a 2&1 victory over compatriot Mark Wilson and, like McIlroy, he will appear in the Match Play final for the first time.

"That was the goal this week, to try to get through as many rounds as possible, and give myself a chance to get to number one in the world," a smiling McIlroy told reporters.

"And I've given myself that chance this afternoon. Hopefully I can take it. I definitely played well for that (semi-final) win today."

Sunday's semi-final between U.S. Open champion McIlroy and world number three Westwood had been hugely anticipated, and it lived up to expectations with stunning twists and turns along with top-quality golf.

Westwood made a sizzling start on a cool clear morning in the Arizona desert, two birdies in the first four holes helping him go three up on McIlroy.

"It wasn't a start that I wanted," said McIlroy. "It's very tough against anyone, but against someone like Lee, who is one of the best in the world, I was just trying to get him back to level at some point in the round."

After hitting a flier with his approach at the par-four fifth, the Englishman missed a downhill putt from 10 feet to bogey, and McIlroy seized control with three birdies in the next four holes.

The mop-haired Northern Irishman drained a 30-footer at the par-three sixth, a 15-footer at the par-five eighth and an eight-footer at the ninth to reach the turn one up.

MCILROY CELEBRATION

The 22-year-old McIlroy then rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-three 12th, pumping his right fist in celebration, to go two up on his opponent.

An errant drive by Westwood at the par-five 13th ended up in the collar of a woman's shirt and McIlroy, who reached the green in two, two-putted for birdie there to go three up.

Westwood immediately responded with a stunning eagle at the driveable par-four 15th where he sank an 18-foot putt to trim McIlroy's advantage before the match ended two holes later.

In the first semi-final, Mahan birdied the second and fourth holes to go two up before Wilson clawed one back by sinking an 18-foot birdie putt at the fifth.

Five-times PGA Tour winner Wilson bogeyed the seventh after missing the green with his approach and the duo recorded matching birdies at the 10th and 11th for Mahan to stay two up until he bogeyed the 12th.

Mahan tightened his grip by sinking a seven-foot birdie putt at the 15th, where Wilson needed three shots to reach the green, to go two up.

The match ended when both players parred the 17th, Wilson reaching that hole for the first time this week in five encounters.

"It's a long, brutal week. You've got to beat five great players to get here (to the final), and I've got to beat one more incredible player to win."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)