Westwood and McIlroy in race for world No 1 crown

 

Marana, Arizona

Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood came to the rescue of the World Match Play yesterday, advancing to the weekend and lifting the mood when it seemed all of Arizona was still in mourning for the loss of Tiger Woods.

Tiger's crowd naturally adopted McIlroy, cheering him on to victory over Miguel Angel Jimenez by 3&1. McIlroy served up a menu of hero shots to send his fans home happy but he also sprinkled his game with some stinker zero shots, too. Ah, the exuberance of youth. "It's nice to get to the quarter-finals," he said. "I'd like to go a little further. I feel last year was a stepping stone to bigger and better things this year." His next opponent is Bae Sang-moon.

Westwood has been enjoying decent support, too, this week but not so much when up against American Nick Watney. Yet Westwood had a plan to keep the crowd quiet. He was after a fast start and got one. "The format dictates you want to get off to a flier," he said. "I suppose you go to the first tee with a more aggressive attitude, attack the pin, and make the putt."

Westwood stepped onto the first tee and smashed his opening drive into the perfect position to attack the pin. Follow that. Watney couldn't. He hooked his drive towards the desert and stared at it for an age resting on his driver like an old man leaning on a walking stick. He looked twitchy, muttering to himself. Westwood puffed out his chest and marched down the fairway like a sergeant major on parade leaving his opponent to scuttle along behind him, playing catch up like a brow-beaten private.

Westwood always seems to be at his best when he is in bully mode. He played Flashman to Watney's Tom Brown and gave the young whippersnapper a jolly good beating by 3&2. It was a friendly beating, though. They chatted about football. The soccer kind, not the NFL version. "He's a Spurs fan, so that may mean he doesn't know a lot about it," Westwood said with a laugh. "He didn't know Nottingham Forest well, which means he really doesn't know a lot about football. I filled him in on the England manager's job." Westwood will now play Martin Laird, who won the all-Scottish tie against Paul Lawrie 3&1.

Another fairway-splitting drive by Westwood at the second hole was followed by another flaky flap by Watney. Westwood raced to two up and Watney trudged to the third tee looking shell-shocked and tired. Beating Woods in the second round had clearly taken its toll. This was his hangover after the party. Watney's patience had all but expired by the time he missed a putt to lose the ninth hole. He stabbed his bag with the butt of his putter and stormed off the green.

Westwood's quest to regain his No 1 world ranking continues and he's three matches away from claiming the best victory of his career and getting his hands on the trophy that has been displayed on a podium, surrounded by red roses, on the first tee all week. However, McIlroy will also fancy going to the top of the rankings with victory here and the pair are scheduled to meet in the semi-finals.

Westwood is looking determined to lay down a marker to prove that he has moved on from the disappointment of his Dubai debacle. And he still hasn't had a beer all year – if you don't count sinking a Watney.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor