Westwood and McIlroy set up their showdown
Sunday 26 February 2012
No time to dawdle over the roast beef lunch. The dog will have to walk itself. And you may need to draw the curtains. This is going to be tasty. Settle back in your sofa for Rory McIlroy versus Lee Westwood. And this time, it's personal.
"It's the match I wanted. It's the match everybody else wanted. And I look forward to seeing him on the first tee," McIlroy said after seeing off Sang-Moon Bae 3&2. Westwood beat Scotland's Martin Laird 4&2.
Choose your weapon, gentlemen, please for the Gunfight at the UK Coral. There has been a frosty relationship bubbling beneath the surface between McIlroy and Westwood ever since last year's Masters. While McIlroy was suffering his Sunday meltdown, Westwood, some thought ungraciously, was not shy in pointing out that McIloy had a hook in his locker when he came under pressure. Many saw their clash of egos as one of the main reasons McIlroy left Chubby Chandler's stable earlier this year.
McIloy did his best to play down any suggestion that this will be a revenge duel in the desert. "We obviously don't spend as much time together as we used to and he is a rival, a guy who you have to beat, but it's totally fine. There's no ill feeling."
Westwood, too, said everything is fine and dandy but he didn't stop there. "Rory doesn't want to spend time with the people who manage me. And I don't want to spend time with the people who manage Rory," he said. Ouch. Take THAT.
One of them will have the chance to advance to the final and victory there will see them crowned World No 1. Westwood, of course, has already been at the summit. But for McIlroy it is uncharted territory. "The chance to go to No 1 gives the match a little bit of extra spice and edge," McIlroy said. As if there weren't enough already.
So much for Westwood's fast start plan. He lost the first hole to a Laird birdie to go behind for the first time in any match all week. He stayed stuck in neutral until the sixth when he went on a run of winning four out of the next five holes while only needing one birdie to sprint away to 3up. Laird was giving away holes to pars. The Scot pretty much punched himself out of the contest at the 14th needing three swipes to escape the sand – just a simple bunker.
McIlroy, however, got off to the perfect start. Which is just as well if you are going to dress like a tangerine. He peeled off a birdie but a bogey at the third left a nasty acid taste in his mouth. He can thank the eejit who yelled, "Get in the hole," as McIlroy sent his tee shot arcing towards the par three. It got in the hole, all right. The big one filled with water. Someone should have chucked the eejit into one of those prickly cholla bushes. Bae stayed in touch with McIlroy until the 10th but then the Northern Irishman began to put the squeeze on. Bae made a mess of the 14th and the match was over two holes later.
Meanwhile, the United States are guaranteed a representative in the final. Hunter Mahan plays Mark Wilson in the other semi-final. But no one will be watching, will they?
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