Day four of the 2012 WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship saw the World Numbers Two and Three, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood join Americans Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson in the final four. Here’s how the action unfolded:
Rory McIlroy defeated Bae Sang-moon 3 and 2
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy maintained his quest to become the youngest-ever winner of a World Golf Championship event and with it the new World Number One with a comfortable 3 and 2 victory over Korea’s Bae Sang-moon.
McIlroy never trailed in the match for the third day running and the US Open Champion got his quarter-final off to a perfect start with birdie at the first to go one up, while five further birdies followed. Three of those birdies were on par fives while his opponent failed to take advantage of the long birdie opportunities.
Bae remained solid, though, continuing a superb week for the rookie, posting plenty of pars to reach the turn just one hole back, and tied the match at the tenth after McIlroy made bogey.
But in the form of a true champion McIlroy bounced straight back with a birdie at the par five 11th to regain the lead.
Some superb wedge play helped the Ulsterman close in on a semi-final spot after a sand wedge from 85 feet to within two feet of the 13th pin set up a conceded birdie to go to two up, while a magnificent approach from around 100 yards from a fairway bunker on the par four 15th to within three feet provided another tap-in birdie and a hole win to increase the lead to three holes.
Pars for both players followed at the par three 16th, thus securing a date with Ryder Cup team-mate Lee Westwood in what promises to be a sensational Sunday semi-final.
Lee Westwood defeated Martin Laird 4 and 2
After failing to proceed beyond the second round in 11 previous attempts, Lee Westwood captured one of the four coveted semi-final spots with a 4 and 2 victory over Martin Laird, despite a less-than ideal opening.
The Scotsman moved one hole into the lead after making birdie at the first to leave the Englishman trailing for the first time this week, a deficit that would remain until the sixth hole when a wayward tee shot from Laird at the par three led to a bogey and brought the match back level.
Westwood further took control of the match thanks to three more bogeys on the next four holes by Laird at the seventh, ninth and tenth holes to leave the former World Number One three up through ten holes, while a birdie and a hole win for the Scot at the 11th – captured with a birdie after Westwood made a three-putt par at the par five – heralded a false dawn as bunker trouble for Laird at the 14th led to a concession and a return of the three shot lead.
Pars followed at the 15th and before Laird conceded the 16th to confirm a 4 hole victory for the current World Number Three.
Westwood is yet to play the 18th hole in his four rounds this week. Luke Donald (2011) and Tiger Woods (2003) are the only players to win the Accenture Match Play Championship without playing the 18th hole.
Hunter Mahan defeated Matt Kuchar 6 and 5
America’s Hunter Mahan cruised into the last four on Saturday with a serene 6 and 5 triumph over fellow countryman Matt Kuchar – the largest margin of victory in Accenture Match Play Championship quarter-finals’ history – largely thanks to the uncharacteristically off-colour putting of the latter.
Kuchar missed six putts inside 12 feet as he suffered five bogeys, while three birdies at the eighth, 11th and 13th holes only yielded halves as Mahan matched his compatriot blow-for-blow. Kuchar didn't win a single hole against Mahan in Saturday’s play and twice three-putted on the fourth and seventh greens.
Mahan posted his first birdie of the day at the par five eighth hole and followed with another birdie at the ninth, rolling in a 20 foot putt to win the hole. A Kuchar bogey at the tenth put Mahan six up while birdies on the back nine par fives brought the tie to an early end at the 13th green and secured a semi-final berth in another all-American tie against Mark Wilson.
Mark Wilson defeated Peter Hanson 4 and 3
On reaching the turn in Saturday’s quarter-final Mark Wilson and Sweden’s Peter Hanson were tied all square after winning two holes apiece over the front nine; Wilson with a par at the par four first hole and a birdie at the long eighth, while a par at the sixth and a birdie at the par four ninth was enough to bring the European Ryder Cup star level midway through Saturday’s action.
But an errant drive from Hanson at the par four tenth hole found the desert scrub off the fairway and left the Swede with no option but to chip out sideways as his opponent went on to win the hole with a par – the ninth time Wilson has won a hole this week with just a par.
Hanson lost the par five 11th after another poor tee shot to slip to two down while the American went on to win the 13th with a birdie and the 14th with a par as Hanson found himself in trouble again, this time when his approach shot found a green-side bunker, resulting in a 4 and 3 victory for the five-time PGA Tour winner.