Rory McIlroy quickly found himself in the ascendency against Gary Woodland as the WGC – Cadillac Match Play final began at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
The World Number One, who earlier eagled the 18th from over 40 feet to see off Jim Furyk in a thrilling last-four, won the fourth when American Woodland tangled in thick rough down the left.
And McIlroy went two up at the next when he got up-and-down from a greenside bunker and Woodland – who earlier saw off England’s Danny Willett in the last four – failed to do likewise.
McIlroy had three-putted the second and third as they were halved in bogeys, but found form with the short stick as he converted from 35 feet at the sixth and half that range on the seventh for unanswered birdies that took him four clear.
Earlier McIlroy had been in danger of going two down with two to play against Furyk, whose putter was red-hot all day, but produced a moment of magic from the rough to match the American’s birdie on the 16th.
The Northern Irishman then almost holed his tee shot to the 17th and squared the contest with the subsequent gain, then converted a tremendous putt to settle the tie after reaching the 18th green in two.
This morning McIlroy had wasted little time winning his quarter-final against Paul Casey at TPC Harding Park, needing just one hole to settle the contest after the pair proved inseparable over 21 on Saturday.
After a swift turnaround, top seed McIlroy was back out on the first and birdied again after getting on in two once more.
But this time Furyk was equal to it, holing from 18 feet to keep matters all square.
McIlroy did go ahead at the third, with Furyk failing to save par from off the green.
Former US Open Champion Furyk won the fourth with a par as McIlroy failed to get up-and-down, but the four-time Major winner went back in front with a birdie at the long next.
McIlroy spectacularly chipped in at the seventh, but Furyk followed him in for birdie from 20 feet to remain only one down, and then turned the contest on its head with a gain from similar distance on the eighth.
Furyk led for the first time at the turn, McIlroy bogeying the ninth after finding a bunker.
McIlroy squared the contest with a birdie from almost 30 feet at the 11th, and went ahead when Furyk shanked his first approach from the rough at the next.
But the American came fighting back again, hitting his tee shot to five feet at the 13th and converting for a birdie to square the contest once more.
Furyk found another birdie on the 15th from ten feet, and pitched close again at the 16th to leave McIlroy facing the prospect of being two down with two to play – a position he had recovered from against Billy Horschel earlier in the week.
But McIlroy chipped close form the rough and converted from six feet before his grandstand finish.