Mahan outmatches McIlroy

by   |   February 26, 2012
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By Seth Kerr

GolfWRX Staff Writer

The buzz entering the final day of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship was whether Rory McIlroy or Lee Westwood would be able to reach No. 1 in the world. The talk at the end of the day was all about Hunter Mahan.

Prior to today, Hunter Mahan’s most well know match play memory was flubbing a chip on the final hole at Celtic Manor to lose to Graeme McDowell, allowing Europe to win the Ryder Cup.

But Mahan helped put those memories to bed with his 2 and 1 victory over McIlroy to win the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Mahan reached the finals after beating Mark Wilson 2 and 1 in the semifinal match to set up the final match with McIlroy.

McIlroy beat rival, Westwood, 3 and 1 to give himself a chance to reach No. 1 with a victory over Mahan. Westwood took control of the match early, going 3-up after just four holes but then McIlroy came roaring back. McIlroy birdied six holes from Nos. 6-13 to not only make up the deficit but take a 3-up lead. From there, McIlroy kept control of the match, closing out Westwood on No. 17.

While the two players say all the right things, it is clear McIlroy and Westwood’s relationship has changed since McIlroy left Chubby Chandler’s stable. McIlroy wanted badly to beat Westwood, calling the match, “his finals” and failed, or could not; raise his intensity any higher for his match against Mahan.

“I was getting myself up for that semifinal match and I knew I would have to get myself up for it again in the finals,” said McIlroy.

Mahan had no problems getting himself up after beating Mark Wilson. Mahan won the first hole and never trailed against Wilson, finally ending the match with a halve on No. 17.

Both players seemed sluggish to start the final round with both failing to take control of the match early. McIlroy had an opportunity to take the lead after No.1, but failed to make a three footer for par. Both players then birdied Nos. 2 and 3 and bogeyed No. 4.

Mahan then won three straight holes, winning Nos. 6-8 with birdie, bogey, and par.

Mahan took a 4-up lead after the tenth, and finished off McIlroy with a halve on No. 17 to win 2 and 1.

“I felt great with my game coming in,” Mahan said. “I made a putter switch to the PING Nome putter and felt great on the greens immediately. And boy, I got hot there in the middle of the week and was able to ride it out.”

While Mahan is most well known for his ball striking and play from tee to green it was his short game that carried him on the back nine.

After the victory, Mahan said, “You’re not going to hit it perfect every day. Ball striking is a strength of mine but I have to chip and putt if I want to win. And I felt like that was a strength this week and that was definitely a huge key.”

Mahan made 35 birdies on the week and becomes only the sixth player to win multiple World Golf Championships.

The next World Golf Championships event is the WGC-Cadillac Championship March 8-11 at the TPC Blue Monster course at Doral in Miami, Fla.

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Seth is an avid golfer playing year round in Florida.

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