Marana, Ariz. — A dull day in the desert ended with high anticipation Saturday when Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood won their matches, setting up a semifinal showdown in the Match Play Championship. At stake for the winner — a chance to go to No. 1 in the world.
McIlroy had another surge on the back nine to put away Bae Sang-moon of South Korean, 3 and 2. Moments later, Westwood finished off Martin Laird of Scotland for a 3-and-2 victory to advance to the semifinals.
Either of them can replace Luke Donald at No. 1 by winning this World Golf Championship.
“It definitely gives the match an extra bit of spice,” McIlroy said.
Hunter Mahan played the shortest quarterfinal match in the 14-year history of the event by beating Matt Kuchar, 6 and 5. His semifinal match will be against Mark Wilson, gaining more respect the deeper he goes in the bracket. Wilson had an easy time in his 4-and-3 win over Peter Hanson of Sweden.
That assures an American will reach the championship match for the first time since Tiger Woods won in 2008.
The semifinal matches will be played this morning, following by the 18-hole championship match in the afternoon.
With a strong breeze, firmer conditions, tough hole locations and only four quarterfinal matches, Saturday at Dove Mountain was lacking excitement. For the first time ever, none of the quarterfinals matches reached the 17th hole.
McIlroy and Westwood saved the day. For starters, it’s the first time the Match Play Championship semifinals have featured two of the top four seeds since 2004, when Woods and Davis Love III advanced.