MARANA, Ariz. -- Four holes into his match against Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy found himself 3 down to the steadiest player at this week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. But there was no panic in the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland.
"I just tried to stay patient and chip away," McIlroy said. "I knew I had a few chances coming up."
It was more than a few ... and he made the most of them. The reigning U.S. Open champ roared back by winning four of the next five holes to take a 1-up lead at the turn, ultimately winning 3 and 1 to reach his first finals match in his fourth appearance here.
He'll now face Hunter Mahan in the championship finals. Should McIlroy win, he'll replace Luke Donald as the world's top-ranked player and would also become the youngest winner of a World Golf Championships event.
McIlroy made seven birdies against Westwood and was near-flawless after suffering a bogey at the par-3 third. Two of his birdies came at the par-3 sixth and 12th holes -- his first two birdies on par-3 holes this week.
"I stepped up my game and made some birdies," McIlroy said. "Thankfully, that was enough to get it turned around."
The comeback started at the par-4 fifth. Westwood had all the momentum going into that hole, but missed the green with his approach shot and failed to save par with a 11-foot putt. McIlroy won the hole with a two-putt par and the comeback was on.
Westwood didn't concede McIlroy's short par putt, but McIlroy said there was no ill feelings about it.
"It's getting to the business end of the tournament," he said. "You can't be too nice and give all those putts."
Westwood said the pivotal hole was the par-5 11th. McIlroy's second shot was sprayed to the right, but he got a fortunate bounce off the cart path and had a direct shot to the flag. Both players ended up making birdie as McIlroy remained 1 up.
“Could have gone out of bounds in a bush,” Westwood said of McIlroy’s shot. “It ends up perfect, and I have to hole from 12 feet for half. That sort of thing can change a match.”
Added McIlroy: “Very fortunate there. The ball could’ve ended up anywhere.”
Had Westwood won the hole, the match would have been all square and been “a different kettle of fish,” Westwood said.
In the end, though, Westwood said it was a matter of McIlroy's putter getting hot.
"Like a lot of match play matches, Rory made 'em and I missed 'em," Westwood said.
OTHER SEMIFINAL: Mahan def. Wilson, 2 and 1
WESTWOOD-McILROY UPDATES (all times ET)
12:57 p.m. – Westwood misses his par putt, and the hats come off. McIlroy wins the match and will face Hunter Mahan in the championship final. If McIlroy wins, he will become the top-ranked player in the world. McIlroy wins 3 and 1.
12:52 p.m. – Westwood’s approach shot at the par-4 17th catches a gust of wind and comes up short of the green. McIlroy follows by finding the putting surface, 30 feet from the pin. Westwood, runs his ball to the right, leaving him 8-1/2 feet from the pin. McIlroy, with a chance to end the match, sees his ball roll 4 feet past.
12:43 p.m. – Not a great birdie putt by Westwood, who runs it 4 feet past. He converts the par, though. McIlroy, who splashed out nicely from the bunker, follows with his par putt to halve the hole. Two holes to play and McIlroy’s 2 up.
12:38 p.m. – McIlroy may be feeling some pressure. After Westwood’s tee shot at the par-3 16th finishes 22 feet from the pin, McIlroy follows with a shot that finds the greenside bunker.
12:32 p.m. – After McIlroy blasts out of the bunker to give himself a decent look at birdie, Westwood answers by rolling in his eagle putt to win the hole. That’s the first hole Westwood has won since the fourth. McIlroy 2 up through 15.
12:27 p.m. – Westwood may not be done just yet. After McIlroy finds the bunker with his tee shot at the drivable par-4 15th, Westwood lashes a perfect drive that sets up an eagle putt inside 19 feet. He needs to make a move now.
12:22 p.m. – Both players make routine pars at the par-4 14th – McIlroy two-putting from 16 feet, Westwood from 36 feet. Neither of the short par putts were conceded.
12:10 p.m. – McIlroy finds the green in two at the par-5 13th and nearly rolls in the eagle putt from 36 feet. He birdies the hole and wins the 13th. In the last eight holes, McIlroy has six birdies; Westwood has one. McIlroy 3 up through 13
12:01 p.m. – Westwood’s drive at the par-5 13th sails into the gallery and ends up lodge in the back of a sweater worn by a woman. Billy Foster, Westwood’s caddie, quipped to the woman: “Would you mind walking 250 yards further?” After a few laughs, Westwood got a free drop.
11:57 a.m. – McIlroy’s birdie at the 12th was his first one of the week at that hole. McIlroy has now birdied the last two par 3s that he’s played. Prior to that, McIlroy had not made a birdie at a par-3 hole all week, and was a cumulative 6 over on the par 3s before his birdie at the sixth.
11:53 a.m. – McIlroy’s putter is on fire. He just rolled in a birdie putt of 24 feet, 5 inches at the par-3 12th to win the hole. Westwood had earlier missed from 41 feet . McIlroy 2 up through 12.
11:42 a.m. – For the second time in this match, Westwood opts for putter off the green, 90 feet from the pin. The ball rolls past the cup, 10 feet away. McIlroy follows with a creative pitch that takes the ridge and funnels to the hole, landing inside 3 feet for an easy birdie. But facing the loss of another hole, Westwood converts his birdie putt and follows by punching the air. The hole is halved with birdies.
11:36 a.m. – McIlroy hits a loose second shot that drifts to the right and hits the cart path. But instead of bounding into the native area and possibly under some shrubs, the ball ends up in the rough, just right of the green.
11:32 a.m. – At the par-5 11th, Westwood blasts another long drive, this one 350 yards (that’s 741 yards in his last two tee shots). McIlroy’s drive goes a “paltry” 339 yards.
11:26 a.m. – Both players make par at the 10th, as Westwood misses a birdie putt from 12 feet that would’ve squared the match.
11:22 a.m. – McIlroy opens the back nine with a tee shot of 363 yards on the par-4 10th. Westwood follows with an even bigger bomb – 391 yards. That’s just five yards shy of the longest drive of the week – Bubba Watson’s 396-yard drive in the first round, also at the 10th hole.
11:16 a.m. – Did Westwood make a mistake by forcing McIlroy to putt out at the fifth? The PGA TOUR Radio crew thinks so. It may have fired up the reigning U.S. Open champ. “McIlroy looks like a man on a mission right now,” said John Maginnes.
11:13 a.m. – Westwood slides his birdie attempt to the right side. McIlroy’s definitely got the hot hand right now, as he converts his birdie putt. Amazingly, after being 3 down through four holes, he will take the lead heading into the back nine. McIlroy 1 up through 9.
11:08 a.m. – Westwood hits terrific second shot at par-4 ninth to 12 feet. That’s the 30th green in regulation in his last 33 holes for Westwood. But McIlroy answers with an even better approach, landing eight feet from the pin.
10:59 a.m. – The comeback is complete. McIlroy has rallied all the way back from 3 down to square the match, as he rolls in a birdie putt from 14 feet, 8 inches at the par-5 ninth. Westwood missed his birdie putt from 29 feet. McIlroy has won three of past four holes and has all the momentum. All square through 8
10:44 a.m. – McIlroy misses birdie putt from just inside 15 feet at the par-4 seventh. Westwood follows by missing his attempt from inside 12 feet. Both players make par to halve the hole.
10:38 a.m. – This is just the second time all week that Westwood has lost two consecutive holes. Nicolas Colsaerts won two straight in his first-round loss to Westwood.
10:31 a.m. – You weren’t counting McIlroy out, were you? He just rolled in a birdie putt of 28 feet, 11 inches at the par-3 sixth to win his second consecutive hole against Westwood, who’s 27-foot birdie attempt from the same line came up just short. Westwood 1 up through 6.
10:23 a.m. – At the par-5 fifth, both players find the rough off the tee. McIlroy sends his approach past the pin but it holds the green; Westwood’s approach bounces past the green. His chip leaves him 10 feet to save par. McIlroy has just 2 feet to save par but Westwood doesn’t concede the putt. Westwood misses his par putt but McIlroy knocks his in to win his first hole of the day. Has the rally started? Westwood 2 up through 5.
10:15 a.m. – McIlroy has a tough chore rallying from 3 down. Just two times this week has a player come back from 3 down to win – Jason Day in his first-round match against Rafael Cabrera Bello, and Dustin Johnson in his first-round match against Jim Furyk.
10:10 a.m. – Only one other time this week has Westwood won three consecutive holes against an opponent. That came in the third round against Nick Watney.
10:08 a.m. –McIlroy’s pitch runs 11 feet past the hole, while Westwood uses putter off the green and runs it five feet past. McIlroy misses his birdie attempt; Westwood makes his. Just four holes into the match and Westwood is in total command after winning last three holes. Westwood 3 up through 4.
10:02 a.m. – At the drivable par-4 fourth, Westwood’s tee shot is on line but comes up just short of the green, while McIlroy lands in the primary rough to the right side.
9:56 a.m. – Another errant shot has McIlroy in the greenside bunker at the par-3 third. After Westwood comes up just an inch short of making his 48-foot birdie putt. McIlroy follows with a bunker shot that hits the cup and skids five feet past. But he can’t make the comebacker to save par and loses the hole. Westwood 2 up through 3.
9:49 a.m. – Westwood pitches to five feet. McIlroy misses his birdie attempt from 22 feet. Westwood rolls in his short birdie putt . McIlroy’s now trailing for the first time since the 10th hole of Wednesday’s first round. Westwood 1 up through 2.
9:40 a.m. – After finding the fairway bunker with his tee shot at the par-5 second, McIlroy hits a poor second shot that comes out low and hits near the lip of the bunker before skidding out 90 yards up the fairway. Westwood lays up with his second shot.
9:31 a.m. – After missing the green with his approach, McIlroy produced a nice chip for a conceded par. Westwood found the green with his approach but missed his birdie attempt from 15 feet, 8 inches. All square through 1.
9:22 a.m. ET – McIlroy finds the fairway with his opening tee shot but Westwood’s drive bounces into the rough on the left side.