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.