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Westwood, McIlroy reach quarters

Updated: 2012-02-26 07:54
( China Daily)

Westwood, McIlroy reach quarters

Lee Westwood (L) of England and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walk off the tee on the 17th hole during the semifinal round of the WGC Accenture Matchplay Championships golf tournament in Marana, Arizona, Feb 26, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

MARANA, Ariz. - Lee Westwood had every reason to pack light for the Match Play Championship. He never made it out of the second round in his 11 previous trips to this tournament, and he never could understand why.

Now it seems as if Westwood can do no wrong.

He has led after 48 of the 49 holes he has played through three rounds at Dove Mountain, barely breaking a sweat under the blazing sun in the high desert. And he erased more bad memories on Friday with a 3-and-2 victory over Nick Watney, who had eliminated Westwood the past two years.

"You want to come out and get momentum as quickly as possible," said Westwood, who birdied the opening two holes for the second straight match. "And the only way to do that is by winning holes."

Westwood, McIlroy reach quarters

Lee Westwood of England watches a fairway shot during the third round of the WGC Match Play Championship. Reuters

Now, Westwood is two matches away from a shot at his first World Golf Championship, and a return to No 1 in the world. But he's not alone.

Rory McIlroy also can go to No 1 in the world for the first time in his young career by winning the Match Play Championship. He also had an easy time, winning on the 17th hole over Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Westwood and McIlroy are on track to face each other Sunday morning in the semifinals. The battle for No 1 - made possible by Luke Donald losing in the opening round - put some interest into an otherwise dull afternoon at Dove Mountain.

None of the matches went the distance until the last one, when Bae Sang-moon missed a 6-foot putt on the 17th hole, only to finish off John Senden with a par putt from about the same distance on the 18th hole.

Only two of the matches made it to the 17th, and four of the third-round matches ended at the 15th hole.

McIlroy has struggled to block out the idea that he could go to No 1. Instead, he's trying to use it as an advantage.

"It's a nice incentive," McIlroy said. "It's nice to have in the back of your mind. And if you're struggling in a match and find it hard to get yourself up, or get any sort of momentum, if you think about that and you think if you can really dig deep, you still have a chance to become No 1."

Westwood was No 1 a year ago, and it's a less of a priority than to capture his first World Golf Championship. Just getting to the quarterfinals is a small achievement.

"I'm just happy to be looking for a different restaurant for Friday night," Westwood said. "I had a little chuckle watching The Golf Channel on Wednesday morning and listening to them make all their predictions and things like that. I don't think they got many right."

And where did the prognosticators have Westwood?

"On the BA 289 on Thursday night," he said, referring to his usual British Airways flight.

Westwood next plays Martin Laird, who won the battle of Scotland by taking down former British Open champion Paul Lawrie, 3 and 1.

Next up for McIlroy is Bae, the South Korean surprise in his first Match Play Championship. Bae won three times last year on the Japan Golf Tour. And while he made it through Q-school to earn a PGA Tour card, he ended last year at No 30 in the world.

He is no stranger in global golf, as McIlroy knows all too well.

They played in the final group of the Korea Open in 2009, where McIlroy and Kim Dae-sub were tied for the 54-hole lead. Bae closed with a 67 and beat them both.

Bae had the only match that went 18 holes in one of the dullest third rounds ever at the Match Play Championship. He took a 1-up lead on the 16th hole against Senden when the Australian played a poor chip. Senden missed a 20-foot birdie putt to square the match on the 18th, and Bae completed a long two-putt par with a 5-footer.

"He's been very impressive this week," McIlroy said.

Associated Press

Westwood, McIlroy reach quarters

Lee Westwood of England hits balls on the driving range prior to the semi-final round of the WGC Accenture Matchplay Championships golf tournament in Marana, Arizona, Feb 26, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

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