Mahan beats McIlroy to win Match Play

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ARIZONA — American Hunter Mahan ended Rory McIlroy’s bid to become world No 1 for the first time with a 2&1 victory over the Northern Irishman in Sunday’s final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Arizona.

With McIlroy initially failing to replicate the stunning form he produced earlier in the day on the way to a 3&1 semi-final win over third-ranked Briton Lee Westwood, Mahan took advantage with a seven-birdie display.

The 29-year-old never trailed after going ahead at the par-three sixth, and he fended off a McIlroy fightback after the turn, ending the match with a comfortable two-putt par on the 17th green.

“Boy, it feels good,” a smiling Mahan told reporters after clinching his fourth PGA Tour title and a second World Golf Championships (WGC) crown, having previously won the 2010 Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

“I didn’t realise how difficult it is to win this week because it’s six matches and you’re playing against the best players in the world,” said Mahan, who defeated fellow American Mark Wilson 2-1 in their semifinal.

“I played well from tee to green, putting to chipping to driving, irons, everything was there. And I needed everything to win. I’m very proud of how I played,” added Mahan who totalled 35 birdies during the week from 96 holes.

World No 2 McIlroy, like Mahan appearing in his first Match Play final, was due to replace Britain’s Luke Donald as the game’s leading player when the rankings were issued yesterday had he claimed his first WGC crown.

“Deep down I wanted to postpone that crowning of the No 1 player in the world for Rory,” Mahan said with a grin. “But he’ll be No 1 eventually. I’m not worried about it, I’m sure he’s not.” US Open champion McIlroy applauded Mahan’s performance, but conceded that his hugely anticipated morning semifinal against Westwood had sapped some of his energy.

“Maybe mentally and emotionally it did take a little bit out of me, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that Hunter played very, very solid golf,” the 22-year-old said.

“Even though I threw a few birdies and an eagle at him on the back nine, he still responded well and held on. During the course of the week, he played the best golf and deserved to win.” —Reuters