By Seth Kerr
GolfWRX Staff Writer
Fans, NBC executives, and tournament officials had to be praying Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy won their quarterfinal matches at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Let’s face it, Sung-Moon Bae and Martin Laird don’t have quite the same pizzazz as McIlroy and Westwood facing each other in the semifinals.
Well, everyone will get their wish as both Westwood and McIlroy won to set up a semifinal match. The winner will have the chance to reach No. 1 with a victory in the finals.
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.”
Martin Laird ended Westwood’s streak of not trailing this week by winning the first hole of the match with a 7-foot birdie putt. Laird did little else in the match, quickly falling three behind after bogeying four of five holes between Nos. 6 to 10. By winning on No. 16, Westwood continued his streak of not having to play the 18th hole in a match. Westwood is looking to become the third player, Luke Donald (2011) and Tiger Woods (2003), to win the championship without playing the final hole.
“Hopefully I can keep playing the way I’ve been playing,” Westwood said. “I felt very solid and I’m not giving much away.”
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy beat Bae 3 and 2. McIlroy never trailed, making six birdies including three of the par-5s.
“I didn’t make many mistakes,” McIlroy said. “I played the par 5s a lot better, which definitely helped.”
Adding intrigue to the match between McIlroy and Westwood is both players used to share Chubby Chandler as their manager before McIlroy dumped him at the end of last year. Westwood criticized the move on Twitter, causing McIlroy to “unfollow” Westwood and Chandler on Twitter (I wonder what Ben Hogan and Sam Snead would think about a Twitter spat).
While both players downplay any feud to the public, it appears the friendship they used to have is gone.
“I think it’s the match that most people wanted, and definitely the match that I wanted,” McIlroy said.
Westwood said that he and McIlroy don’t spend as much time together as they did when we were in the same management group, but he called that understandable.
“Rory doesn’t want to spend time with the people that manage me, and I don’t want to spend time with the people that manage Rory,” Westwood said.
Does that sound all that friendly to you? Didn’t think so.
The second semifinal features Americans Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson. You have to figure Wilson is comfortable with all the attention going to Westwood and McIlroy as fans and media alike continue to overlook him.
Wilson beat Peter Hansen 4 and 3, never trailing in the match and winning four of the last six holes for the victory. Wilson has not played either Nos. 17 or 18 this week and would be the first player ever to win without playing the final two holes of a match.
Hunter Mahan figures to have something to say about that after his convincing win over Matt Kuchar 6 and 5. While Mahan played solid, Kuchar self destructed, making five bogeys and not winning a single hole. Kuchar missed six putts from inside 12-feet and three-putted two holes on the front side.
“My putting let me down,” Kuchar said. “I think it really came down to putting. I think if I had putted well, I was in the match.”
Mahan didn’t make a birdie until the eighth hole but by that time he already had a 4-up lead due to Kuchar’s poor play.
“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.”
PING figures to be especially happy about the results this week as Mahan, Westwood, and Wilson all play Ping products.
Semifinal and final coverage begins on The Golf Channel at 9 a.m. EST and continue until 1:00 p.m. NBC then picks up coverage from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.