Westwood and McIlroy in race for world No 1 crown
Saturday 25 February 2012
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.
Latest in Sport
Newcaslte vs Everton: Latest news and score plus the rest of today's Premier League action, including Manchester United and Chelsea reaction
Manchester United injury news: Angel Di Maria unlikely to face Spurs as Marouane Fellaini's 'mystery illness' turns out to be rib injury
Manchester City team news: Manuel Pellegrini hopes to have Vincent Kompany back for Burnley visit but hopes not to risk Stevan Jovetic
Arsenal transfer news: William Carvalho to be subject of £20m bid
Manchester United defender Luke Shaw renting £3.85m home from Cristiano Ronaldo
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 4 UK weather: 'Coldest night of the year' tonight as freezing temperatures plummet to -10C
- 5 Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk