Westwood moves into quarterfinals at Match Play

Posted Feb. 24, 2012, at 6:55 p.m.

MARANA, Ariz. — Lee Westwood got his revenge on Nick Watney and moved a step closer to a shot at regaining the No. 1 ranking Friday in the Match Play Championship.

Westwood, eliminated at Dove Mountain each of the last two years by Watney, birdied the opening two holes and pulled away when Watney missed too many short putts. He advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-and-2 win.

Rory McIlroy also can go to No. 1 by winning the Match Play. He advanced with a 3-and-1 win over Miguel Angel Jimenez.

If they win their matches Saturday, McIlroy and Westwood would meet in the semifinals Sunday morning.

One year after Luke Donald became the first Match Play champion to never trail all week, Westwood looks even more dominant. He halved the opening hole in the first round Wednesday, and has led after every hole the rest of the way.

Westwood has had the lead in 48 of the 49 holes he has played over three days.

Watney never came close. His only hope for a shift in momentum came on the par-5 13th, when he was 10 feet away for birdie. Westwood was just short of the green in two, and his pitch hit the flag and caromed about 12 feet away. The Englishman holed his birdie putt to stay 3 up, and they halved holes the rest of the way.

“I couldn’t sit at his lunch table,” Watney said, poking fun at Kobe Bryant’s comment about the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Hunter Mahan won big over Steve Stricker, and Matt Kuchar defeated Martin Kaymer. Mahan and Kuchar nextplay in the quarterfinals, assuring an American will get to the semifinals for the first time since 2009.

In the battle of Scotland, Martin Laird outlasted Paul Lawrie.

Peter Hanson of Sweden has quietly motored his way through the tournament. He birdied the first three holes and beat Brandt Snedeker to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in five attempts. Hanson next playsMark Wilson, who is showing that good putting trumps big drives in match play.

Wilson won four straight holes early in his match, starting with a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 3, and beat Dustin Johnson, 4 and 3. It was the second straight year that Wilson has eliminated Johnson.

Johnson won the 11th hole and was 3 down when he put himself in good shape to win the par-3 12th. But Wilson holed a 50-yard chip for birdie to restore his lead, and then it was a matter of time before Johnson ran out of holes.

“I know people keep talking about how I hit it so short that I can’t compete,” said Wilson, who has won three times on the PGA Tour in the last 14 months. “First of all, I don’t hit it very short. And secondly, it all comes down to putting. It really does. So I just don’t know how many times I have to explain it.”

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