McIlroy vs. Westwood in Match Play semis
Marana, AZ – It won't be a championship match for No. 1 in best option.
Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, the lone No. 1 seeds remaining, both won their quarterfinal matches Saturday and will meet in one of Sunday's semifinals at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The winner of Sunday morning's semifinal has a chance to become No. 1 in the world. If either man wins the championship Sunday afternoon, he will ascend to the top spot in the world rankings.
"We both have a chance to go No. 1 in the world," McIlroy said in a televised interview. "It's the match that I wanted and I think it's match that everyone else wanted."
McIlroy, the No. 1 seed in the Gary Player bracket, knocked off 11th-seeded Sang Moon Bae, 3 & 2.
Westwood, the top player in the Sam Snead bracket, emerged thanks to a 4 & 2 victory over Martin Laird.
For McIlroy, it'll be an opportunity to become first in the world rankings for the first time. Westwood was No. 1 previously, but would love to get back atop the perch and do so against his friend.
"We've played a lot together," Westwood said on TV. "It'll be a good match, obviously a great match. Hope we both play well and make lots of birdies."
The other semifinal features two Americans.
Hunter Mahan was dominant Saturday in a 6 & 5 drubbing of Matt Kuchar to capture the Ben Hogan bracket.
Mahan will face Mark Wilson, the 10 seed, who came out of the Bobby Jones bracket after a 4 & 3 win over No. 9, Peter Hanson.
With world overall top seed Luke Donald knocked out on Wednesday, and three- time champion Tiger Woods shown the door in round two, the tournament still had much-needed star power.
Now, it will be the No. 2 player in the world against the No. 3 player in the first semifinal after both played brilliantly on Saturday.
McIlroy was all-square with Bae, but wins at 11 and 13 moved him 2-up. He took the 15th and when Bae conceded the 16th hole, the reigning U.S. Open champion did his part to set up the epic semifinal match.
Westwood followed shortly after McIlroy. After Laird, who was 3-down, rolled in a six-footer just to stave off elimination at the 15th, he hit a poor tee shot at the par-three 16th.
Laird ran his long birdie effort 10 feet past the hole. Westwood missed his birdie putt, but was in close. Laird missed his par putt, then took off his cap to concede the match to Westwood.
"He gave me a couple around the turn and you can't do that at this level," said Westwood, who won four out of five holes from the sixth.
Mahan had very little trouble on Saturday. He won the par-three third after Kuchar landed in the water off the tee. Kuchar, who finished third last year, never rebounded from the soggy mistake and lost three of the next four holes.
The two halved eight, but Mahan took the next two with birdies to go 6-up. They halved the next three and Mahan moved on to the semifinals.
Mahan, who won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two years ago, made a ton of birdies in the first three rounds, but on Saturday, his victory had a lot to do with Kuchar's shaky play with the flat stick. Kuchar missed an estimated six putts inside 12 feet in the quarterfinals.
"You're always surprised," Mahan said in a televised interview. "The level of game he has - he just couldn't find the putter today. Luckily, I made some nice par putts early and got a few holes under my belt."
Wilson won the first hole, but by the time the match hit the turn, it was all- square. Hanson hit a wild tee shot to lose the 10th, then another bad drive cost him the 11th.
Wilson, who won this year's Humana Challenge, birdied 13 and Hanson couldn't save par from a bunker at 14. He lost that hole and fell 4-down. One hole later, Wilson advanced to Sunday's semifinals.
"I really don't try to re-invent the wheel," Wilson said on TV. "Every hole I tee it up, I'm trying to make a birdie. I don't change anything - just play golf and enjoy it."
NOTES: Mahan's 6 & 5 victory over Kuchar was the worst quarterfinal loss in tournament history...Wilson has yet to play the 17th or 18th holes all week...None of the quarterfinal matches made it to the 17th green Saturday...The semifinals are scheduled for Sunday morning and the championship and consolation matches are on tap for Sunday afternoon.