Saturday, February 25, 2012


Rory McIlroy has ratcheted up the tensions with Lee Westwood, his arch rival for golf’s world No 1 spot, with an extraordinarily bullish statement ahead of their semi-final duel on Sunday at the Accenture Match Play.


M Wilson bt P Hanson 4 and 3.
H Mahan bt M Kuchar 6 and 5
R McIlroy bt S Bae 3 and 2
L Westwood bt M Laird 4 and 2.

A froideur (coldness?)has developed between the pair since their days together at Chubby Chandler’s management stable, and the young Ulsterman did not conceal his relish at staring down his adversary in a straight head-to-head.
Brimful of confidence in Arizona on Saturday night, McIlroy declared: “It’s a match I wanted, it’s a match everyone else wanted, and I look forward to seeing him on the first tee tomorrow.”
 The 22 year-old could not have sounded any more primed for this Wild West confrontation than if he had just swung through a set of saloon doors in a stetson. He and Westwood take to the Dove Mountain course here at 7.20am local time with scores to settle and, potentially, the No 1 ranking at stake. Pistols at dawn, indeed.
The chance for both golfers to usurp Luke Donald at the top of the rankings, should either claim the Accenture title, lends added piquancy to an already explosive encounter. It is no secret on tour that relations between these two are cool.
Westwood expressed as much when, with McIlroy in the throes of meltdown at last year’s Masters, he argued that the youngster had a “pull-hook in his bag under pressure.”
He also described McIlroy’s decision to leave Chandler’s International Sports Management last autumn as “bizarre”.
Westwood hardly exuded warmth on that theme again last night, as he admitted they did not spend much time in each other’s company. “Rory doesn’t want time with the people who manage me, and I don’t want to spend much time with the people who manage Rory,” he said.
The only pity is that the tussle could not have been saved for tonight’s final – one guaranteed to pit Britain against the United States, after Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson both won their quarter-finals convincingly yesterday.
 McIlroy, the world No 3, could scarcely wait to try to overhaul Westwood, whom he trails by just 0.01 points in the standings.
“I think, with both of us being up there in the world [rankings], and both of us with the possibility of going to No 1, it definitely gives the match an extra little bit of spice.”
Westwood did not exactly achieve the fast start he had planned in his quarter-final against Martin Laird, as the Scot’s opening birdie put him in a trailing position for the first time in the event. But thereafter he ground Laird steadily into submission with his accurate iron play, eventually sealing a 4 and 2 triumph.
McIlroy’s 3 and 2 win over Sang-Moon Bae proved a similarly fluctuating affair. The pair were still level after seven, before the US Open champion offered a belated statement of intent with an assured birdie at the par-five eighth.
He floundered when he thrashed his tee-shot at the 10th into the bushes, but mercifully for McIlroy, Bae also appeared beset by nerves, slicing his drive into at the 13th into an awkward position in a fairway bunker.
It was the Ulsterman’s cue to assert his superiority, as he delivered a straightforward four on the same hole, before prevailing on the 16th. His thoughts immediately turned to Westwood. It promises to be a contest every bit as fascinating as it is frosty.



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