MARANA, Ariz. – PGATOUR.COM staffers Mike McAllister and Helen Ross are on the scene at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Here are their predictions for the last two matches of the tournament – the championship final between Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan, and the consolation final between Lee Westwood and Mark Wilson.
Now it’s your turn. Which players do you like in the finals?
Although Mahan has been terrific all week – no player has made more birdies – McIlroy just seems to be getting better with each match. He showed something by rallying to beat Lee Westwood after being 3 down early in the semifinal match. I think he has the most momentum going into the afternoon.”
Ross’ prediction: Mahan
”He's made the well-timed birdies and poured in clutch putts to halve. Plus, I think McIlroy may have expended too much focus on Westwood.”
McAllister’s prediction: Westwood
”Westwood has been solid all week and didn’t play badly in losing to McIlroy. He just ran into a buzzsaw.”
Ross’ prediction: Wilson
”I'll go with my fellow Tar Heel from North Carolina. He's playing well and he has more to prove.”
MARANA, Ariz. – Hunter Mahan gets to go for the second leg of the World Golf Championships grand slam after beating Mark Wilson 2 and 1 in the semifinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mahan, who won the 2010 Bridgestone Invitational, won the first two holes on Sunday morning and never looked back. For his efforts, he'll get a rematch with world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, a 3-and-1 winner over Lee Westwood in the other semifinal, for the title beginning at 2:20 p.m. ET.
McIlroy, who would take over the top spot in the world rankings with a win Sunday afternoon, sent Mahan packing in the second round in 2009, winning on the final green.
“It's a great feeling,” Mahan said. “It's a long, brutal week. You've got to beat five great players to get here. I've got to beat one more incredible player to win. It's going to be a tough match. I'm very proud of myself.”
If Mahan should win the championship, he'd be the sixth player to hold multiple World Golf Championships titles. And there’s a chance for another just two weeks down the road at the Cadillac Championship at Doral.
"I think when we have these WGC events, it would be cool to have all the trophies,” Mahan had said on Saturday. “… So being in that position, I kind of think about that. That would be cool to win one and then you have to win Doral. Unless they keep adding them, then that's going to make it more difficult.”
Mahan was solid again on Sunday morning against Wilson. He made five birdies and two bogeys in 17 holes, repeatedly pouring in clutch putts to hold off Wilson, who will meet Westwood in a match to decide third place beginning at 2:05 p.m. ET.
Trailing 2 down at the turn, Wilson did mount a bit of a charge on the back nine but he could never get over the hump. He and Mahan halved the 10th and 11th holes with birdies and then the former UNC standout won the 12th with a two-putt par to go 1 down.
Wilson had a 12-footer for birdie at the 13th hole and a 21-footer at the next – both of which would have squared the match. But neither fell and Mahan regained some breathing room at the 321-yard par-4 15th when his drive settled just in front of the green and he got up and down for his final birdie.
“I think when I chipped in on 10, I thought it was going to be a good turning point, but we both birdied 11,” Wilson said. “13 and 14 are kind of ones that stick in my mind. A couple of 20‑footers that if I could have got one of those going it might have been a different story.”
At that point, it was only a matter of time. Mahan has been extremely solid in all phases of the game this week but a lot of the credit goes to his putter – he’s made 28 birdies this week, more than any other player in the semifinals, and repeatedly drained the par putts he needed to halve holes.
“You can't just hit the greens, you're going to have 20 footers over these mounds and it's going to be tough to make putts,” Mahan said. “So it's a combination of things, good driving, killing the par 5s, good chips and stuff, a combination of things. But without the putter, I really wouldn't have had a chance.”
OTHER SEMIFINAL: McIlroy-Westwood updates
SEMIFINAL UPDATES (All times ET)
12:43 p.m. – Hunter Mahan has beaten Mark Wilson 2 and 1 to reach the Accenture finals for the first time. Wilson missed a 55-footer for birdie at the 17th before Mahan did the same from 30 feet. Wilson conceded the 23-inch par putt and the match.
12:34 p.m. – Mahan putts first for par and makes it. Wilson rolls in his 4-footer to halve and now the match is dormie. That means Wilson needs to figure out a way to win the next two holes to advance. Mahan leads 2 up through 16 holes.
12:28 p.m. – Mahan finds the greenside bunker but once again hangs tough, blasting out to 5 feet. Wilson needs the 25-footer for birdie in the worst way but he is unable to convert.
12:25 p.m. – We’re getting into uncharted territory for Wilson and Mahan. Wilson hasn’t seen the 16th hole in competition since Thursday while Mahan only played it in his opening match with Zach Johnson.
12:18 p.m. – Mahan’s eagle chip stopped 7 feet short. Wilson then chipped to 18 inches and his par was conceded. Mahan buried his birdie putt for the all-important win and the holes continue to dwindle. Mahan leads 2 up through 15 holes.
12:13 p.m. – As PGA TOUR Radio’s John Maginnes noted, Wilson put his tee shot on the driveable par-4 14th hole in the “only place he didn’t want to hit it.” The ball landed in a pot bunker about 30 yards short of the green. Mahan, meanwhile, is just short of the putting surface and chipping for eagle.
12:07 p.m. – Once again Wilson has a birdie putt to win the hole after Mahan fails to convert. Wilson misses on the low side, though, and he now has four holes remaining in his comeback attempt. Mahan leads 1 up through 14 holes.
12:04 p.m. – Mahan put his drive into the left fairway bunker but managed to find the putting surface, 31 feet from the pin. Wilson was in the middle of the fairway and ended up 21 feet left of the hole.
11:54 a.m. – Wilson had a golden opportunity to square the match for the first time after Mahan missed his birdie putt. But Wilson’s ball stubbornly refused to fall so the hole is halved. Mahan leads 1 up through 13 holes.
11:50 am. – Wilson and Mahan both found fairway bunkers about 30 yards short of the green at the par-5 13th hole. Wilson, who was in the back bunker, blasted to 11 feet for a birdie. Mahan then hit an indifferent bunker shot to 20 feet.
11:35 a.m. – Wilson took advantage, too, putting his 36-footer for birdie to tap-in distance. When Mahan missed the 17-footer to the left, Wilson had his first win in the last six holes – with the last par 5 on the horizon. Mahan 1 up through 12 holes.
11:33 a.m. – Mahan’s 6-iron rolled through the green and into the rough on the par-3 12th hole. Mahan has given Wilson a bit of an opening because his flop stopped 17 feet short.
11:29 a.m. – Mahan missed the lengthy eagle putt and Wilson blasted out to 8 feet. He made the birdie putt and Mahan matched him. Mahan 2 up through 11 holes.
111:20 a.m. – Prior to Saturday, Wilson had played the par 5s in 10 under. He didn’t birdie either of the two on the front nine, though, and he finds himself in a greenside bunker at the par-5 11th. Unfortunately for Wilson, Mahan is on the green in two and looking at a 43-foot eagle putt.
11:12 a.m. – Wilson hit his drive into the rough and his second short of the green. But he made it look easy as he chipped in from 54 feet to put the pressure on Mahan, who had hit a brilliant approach from the deep fairway bunker to 4 feet. Mahan made his birdie to halve. Mahan leads 2 up through 10.
10:59 a.m. – Neither player did himself any favors at the ninth hole. Mahan had a 50-footer that slid 7-feet by the hole. Wilson missed his 24-footer on the high side and his 13-inch putt was conceded. Mahan made his par putt. Mahan 2 up through 9.
10:46 a.m. – After a 300-yard drive into the fairway, Hunter Mahan came up just short of the green at No. 8. His third shot stopped 12 feet from the pin and he had a chance to win the hole after Wilson left his birdie try 10 inches from the cup. Mahan 2 up through 8.
10:40 a.m. – Mark Wilson hit his drive into the right fairway bunker and had to lay up on the par-5 eighth. His third shot caught the slope and rolled back 31 feet from the pin.
10:28 a.m. – Wilson hits a nice shot from the difficult lie but he can’t convert the 12-footer for par. So Mahan wins the hole when he makes his par putt. Mahan 2 up through 7.
10:22 a.m. -- Both players failed to hit the seventh green in regulation. Wilson has a difficult sidehill, downhill lie in the rough to a green that slopes away from him. Mahan blasted out of a fairway bunker and nearly holed his third shot, spinning back to 7 feet.
10:14 a.m. – The pin at the par-3 sixth hole is on a ridge and neither player was able to get it close. Mahan left his 42-footer for birdie 3 feet from the pin. Wilson was unable to convert from 21 feet and once Mahan made his par, the hole was halved. Mahan 1 up through 6
10:07 a.m. – Mark Wilson just made his first birdie of the day, pouring in an 18-footer to win the fifth hole. Mahan 1 up through 5.
10:03 a.m. – Hunter Mahan – dare we say it – shanked his second shot at the fifth hole. The ball traveled wide right and landed on the sixth tee, about 50 yards from the green. He recovered nicely, though, chipping to 5 feet for a potential par.
9:52 p.m. – Both pros found the fairway at the 336-yard fourth hole. Mahan stuck his wedge to 18 feet while Wilson’s stops 10 feet further. He misses his birdie putt but Mahan buries his. Mahan 2 up through 4.
9:43 p.m. – Wilson misses his birdie putt but wins the hole when Mahan, who blasted out to 12 feet, can’t bury that putt for par. Mahan was 5 for 5 in sand saves in his four previous matches. Mahan 1 up through 3. 9:40 a.m. -- Mahan puts his tee shot at the par-3 third hole in the left greenside bunker while Wilson's 5-iron finds the back edge of the green and rolls back to 25 feet.
9:34 a.m. -- Both players found fairway bunkers off the tee at No. 2 so they played the par 5 as a three-shot hole. Wilson missed his 15-footer for birdie but Mahan converted from 5 feet. Mahan 2 up through 2.
9:16 a.m. – Mahan hits first and finds the green, about 18 feet from the pin. Wilson has a clear shot in the desert and nearly makes the putting surface but his ball rolls back on the closely mown area. He chips to 5 feet but the putt lips out. Mahan two-putts, his second, a 3-footer is on the same line as Wilson’s was, to win. Mahan 1 up though 1.
9:05 a.m. – The sky is a combination of light blue, pink and gold as the two players step to the first tee and shake hands. It’s cool; both are wearing gray sweaters but Hunter Mahan has donned a red cap. Mark Wilson tees off first and hits his drive left into the desert. Hunter Mahan also goes left but his ball stays on the edge of the fairway.
MARANA, Ariz. -- The marquee match everyone had hoped for materialized on Saturday when top-seeded Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy won their quarterfinal matches.
Adding extra spice to the battle between the world No. 2 from Northern Ireland and his English counterpart, who ranks third, is that the one who emerges victorious could jump to the top of the rankings should he go on to win the Accenture Match Play Championship.
“Walking around the locker room I said I'll see you on the first tee tomorrow morning,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, I think it's the match that most people wanted and definitely the match that I wanted. And I'm excited about tomorrow. It should be a lot of fun and very exciting for everyone involved.”
Standing in the way of either McIlroy or Westwood at Dove Mountain, though, will be an American after Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson emerged with fourth round wins, as well. Neither trailed in their match and Wilson has not seen the 17th or 18th holes all week.
“I think Mark is going to hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, he's a steady, consistent player,” said Mahan, whose first match went extra holes but the last three have ended by No. 15. “He's playing well now. It would be fun to play against a Ping guy in Arizona. That will be exciting.”
Mahan's 6-and-5 victory over Matt Kuchar was the most lopsided ever in the quarterfinals while Mark Wilson was in control of his 4-and-3 win over Sweden's Peter Hanson. Westwood polished off Martin Laird 4 and 2 Saturday afternoon after McIlroy ended PGA TOUR rookie Sang-moon Bae's surprising run 3 and 2.
The Americans will be first off in their match at 9:05 a.m. ET (7:05 a.m. MT) while McIlroy and Westwood will tee off 15 minutes later. The consolation match will then start at approximately 1:50 p.m. ET (11:50 a.m. MT) with the championship starting at roughly 2:05 p.m. ET (12:05 a.m. MT).
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Maybe it’s seeing Jason Dufner near the top of the leaderboard. Maybe he simply likes TPC Scottsdale.
Most likely, though, it’s because Mark Wilson, who beat Dufner in a playoff in Phoenix a year ago, is simply playing well. He won the Humana Challenge two weeks ago so it’s no surprise to see Wilson three shots off the lead held by Spencer Levin as the second round heats up.
Wilson, who started on the back nine Friday morning, has played his first six holes in 5 under. He’s made three birdies and an eagle and now stands 6 under for the tournament.
Wilson set the tone for the day when he rolled in birdie putts of 15 and 3 feet on his first two holes. He holed a 14-footer from just off the green for the eagle at the 13th, then birdied No. 15 on a 15-foot putt.
Check out the January nominees for PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis.
Avis Rent A Car and the PGA TOUR have redesigned the PGA TOUR’s Player of the Month award program for 2012. The monthly honor will now be determined by a fan vote via PGATOUR.COM.
On the first Tuesday of each month, fans can vote online at PGATOUR.COM for one of four players nominated for their outstanding play the previous month by a panel of national media.
Stricker won the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Wagner won the Sony Open in Hawaii. Wilson won the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. And Snedeker won last week’s Farmers Insurance Open.
The voting ends on the following Sunday, and the player with the most votes will be named the PGA TOUR Player of the Month. In addition, Avis, the “Official Rental Car Company” of the PGA TOUR, will present the winner with a $50,000 check payable to his charity of choice.
Results will be posted next Tuesday on PGATOUR.COM
And if you want to state your case for why your favorite player should win the January award, just fill out the form below and let us know.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
The world of putting on the PGA TOUR became an itty-bitty less interesting this season.
That’s because Robert Garrigus has shelved his itty-bitty putter.
Garrigus is one of the longest hitters on TOUR but also gained notoriety in recent years for his 28.5-inch putter, which looked pretty funny in the hands of a 5-foot-11 pro. Seemingly more suited for a junior’s bag, Garrigus’ putter instead helped lift him to a win at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in 2010 and a 74th-place FedExCup finish in 2011.
Alas, the long putter revolution has picked up another believer as Garrigus had a belly putter in play last week at the Humana Challenge, where he finished T2.
Garrigus used a 46-inch Scotty Cameron Big Sur – 17.5 inches taller than his old putter.
“I would have never in a million years been like, ‘oh, I think I need to go to a belly putter,’” Garrigus said after the final round at La Quinta, Calif.
His coach, Jim Ahern, encouraged him to simply try it out.
“I putted with a few different styles, the belly, I tried the chest, and the chest ended up being perfect,” Garrigus said. “It was 46 inches, which is three inches shorter -- kind of fitting, because my other putter was about seven inches shorter than everybody else's. But I started rolling it, I started getting confident with it, and about five or six days before I came out (to Humana), I found the perfect grip for my putting stroke, and it took all the tension out of it. Man, I tell you what, I haven't rolled it this good in quite a long time.
“It's so easy to take it back and take it through. I hit so many good putts this week, it was the straight putts I always had problems with, I always pulled them, now those are starting right on line and it's just awesome. I'm just very, very excited about the year.”
TYPICAL PHIL: Phil Mickelson came to the Humana Challenge not wanting to make any changes in his bagfrom last year. If you know Phil, you knew that vow would have limited shelf life.
“The first day, of course, I hit two (drives) out of bounds and I kind of bagged that idea,” Mickelson said.
After that opening-round 74, he replaced his Callaway FT Tour driver for a RAZR Fit that he had worked with over the offseason. Sure enough, his next three rounds in the desert were 69-66-69.
As for the putter, last year’s belly experiment appeared to be just that. He used a conventional-length Odyssey blade that brought back old vibes.
“I think that as I looked back at these last couple months, the way I putted best over the years, it was when I was an amateur and early in my career where I putted very free with a blade,” Mickelson said. ”So I went back to the putter I used growing up as a kid. Odyssey, identical specs, I’m rolling it much like I did when I was younger, and it feels really good.
TRANSACTIONS: As expected, Rickie Fowler made it official with Cobra Puma Golf. He already wore Puma’s clothes, now he’ll play Cobra clubs including the orange-accented AMP driver. … After eight years with Yonex, Colin Montgomerie is returning to Callaway, the company with which he won five consecutive European Tour money titles. … Ross Fisher signed with Nike Golf.
NEW STUFF: Mark Wilson, not cut from the Mickelson mold of club tinkering, tweeted after winning the Humana Challenge, “I went out of my comfort zone this year, putting new Ping i20 Driver and i20 irons into play cuz they felt so good. Apparently, a good call”. Indeed. For the rest of us, those clubs will be available in late February. … Camilo Villegas put a TaylorMade Ghost Manta belly putter into play at Humana, shooting an opening-round 63 and finishing T19. He finished T39 for the event in Strokes-Gained Putting; he was 141st for the 2011 season. … Luke Donald is taking new Mizuno MP59 irons and MP-R12 wedges to Abu Dhabi.
WINNER’S BAG: Wilson at the Humana
Driver: Ping i20 8.5 degree (Grafalloy Tour X shaft)
3-wood: Cleveland HiBore XLS, 13 degrees
Hybrids: Ping i15, 17 and 20 degrees
Irons: Ping i20 4-PW
Wedges: Ping Tour, 52, 60 degrees
Putter: Ping Karsten Anser
Ball: Titleist ProV1x