McIlroy and Westwood set up mouth-watering semi-final

25/02/2012 22:52:11
Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood will face each other in tomorrow's semi-final after quarter-final success.  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood will face each other in tomorrow's semi-final after quarter-final success. (Getty Images)
Lee Westwood promised “it will be exciting” when he goes head-to-head with Rory McIlroy in the semi-finals of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson - and the reward for the winner at the end of the day could be the World Number One spot.

Westwood reached the last four with a polished error-free 4 and 2 victory over Scot Martin Laird minutes after 22 year old McIlroy, capable of golf most people only dream about, beat Korean Bae Sang-moon on the same green.

“The seeds have worked out,” said Westwood. “We're both Number One seeds. - that's how it should be in the semi-finals.

“One of us will have a chance to get to the final and win the tournament. That's my main priority to go out tomorrow morning and play well.”

The two Ryder Cup teammates - former stablemates too - both need to take the title to oust Luke Donald at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

“Walking around the locker room I said ‘I'll see you on the first tee tomorrow morning’,” said McIlroy.

“I think it's the match that most people wanted and definitely the match that I wanted. I'm excited about tomorrow, it should be a lot of fun and very exciting for everyone involved.

“All I need to do is focus on the match tomorrow morning, and then I think the biggest task for both of us, me and Lee, is obviously getting yourself so much up for the semi-final  

“You have to get yourself up for that again. So that will be the tough task because obviously both of us feel you've got to get past each other for Lee to get back to Number One and me to get there for the first time.  

“You have to put your all into that and then whoever wins tomorrow morning, you get yourself back up again to go back out tomorrow afternoon and win the whole thing.

“The way Lee plays, you know he's going to hit fairways, he's going to hit greens, he's going to put you under pressure the whole day. He's not going to take his foot off the pedal, he's not going to give you any holes, so you have to play the exact same way. You've got to hit fairways, hit greens, give yourself plenty of opportunities, and I think tomorrow it'll just come down to who holes the most putts.”

Americans Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson meet in the other semi-final, Mahan beating compatriot Matt Kuchar 6 and 5 and Wilson maintaining his record of not needing to play the last two holes yet by seeing off Swede Peter Hanson 4 and 3.

It was at this event last year that Westwood lost the World Number One spot to German Martin Kaymer.

He grabbed it back with two wins in Asia in April, but has been behind Donald ever since losing a play-off to him in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club a month later.

Never beyond the second round at the Match Play in 11 previous appearances, the 38 year old Englishman Worksop has been superbly impressive in knocking out Nicolas Colsaerts, Robert Karlsson, Nick Watney and then Laird.

The Arizona-based Scot became the first player to take the lead against Westwood when he rolled in a six foot birdie putt on the first.

But Laird, who came into the week ranked 40th, bogeyed the sixth, seventh, ninth and tenth - all with bogeys after missing the greens - to be in deep trouble at three down.

Westwood handed one back by three-putting the long next after finding the green in two, but Laird's three attempts to get out of a bunker on the 14th gave him a mountain to climb and Westwood was in no mood to let him back in.

McIlroy began in style with a birdie, but was in the lake at the third and with eight to play was again all square.

It was then that he showed his class, making birdies at the 11th and 13th - both par fives - and another on the driveable 15th when he chipped to two feet.

"For the most part I felt I played pretty good," said the US Open Champion. "I hit a couple of loose drives, but apart from that I thought it was some of my best golf of the week.

"You really have to try to control your ball flight and pick your spots on the greens."

Kuchar, third in the event last year, was a shadow of the player who had knocked out fourth seed Martin Kaymer the day before. He three-putted twice and had four bogeys as he turned five down, then went over the green and dropped another stroke on the next.

Mahan added to his opponents misery by halving the long eighth in birdie fours and then rolling in an 18 footer for another birdie at the next.

Kuchar did birdie the 11th and 13th, both par fives, but so did Mahan and that was that.

Hanson fell behind for the first time all week when he bogeyed the first, but there was never more than one in it until the European Ryder Cup player went into the desert scrub for the second successive hole on the long 11th and ran up a bogey six.

He was then in two bunkers at the 13th and despite rescuing a par five it was not good enough to save him from losing another hole - and the end was not far away.

Mahan admitted he was surprised at how poorly Kuchar played given "the level of game he has", while the short-hitting Wilson commented: "They talk about it being a bomber's course, but you have to hit it straight too."

That point was proved by the last two winners - Ian Poulter and Donald are by no means big-hitters - and Wilson has had only six bogeys in four games.

Donald won without playing the final hole. Westwood could do the same, but Wilson has not gone beyond the 16th yet.

Westwood said of taking on McIlroy: "We've played a lot together. It will be a good match - I hope it will be a great match, that we both play well and make a lot of birdies.

“I've been at Number One a couple of times. It would be a different way of thinking to me compared to Rory who hasn't been Number One. 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. “