MARANA, ARIZONA | Rory McIlroy’s barrel was
empty. Having gunned down Lee Westwood in
Sunday morning’s grudge shootout, he had no
bullets left for the final. Hunter Mahan rode out
of town with the trophy, the $1.4 million first
prize and a world top- 10 player for the first
time moving up to No. 9.
McIlroy was gracious in defeat but did
admit that the vigour of that personal vendetta
against Westwood had taken too much out of
him. “To me, in a way, it was like my final,”
McIlroy said. “That’s the one I wanted all week.
Maybe mentally and emotionally that did take a
lot out of me. But Hunter deserved to win.”
Mahan finished the week with a tally of 35
birdies. He was too hot for McIlroy, who got off
to a sluggish start and played the front nine in
3-over par. Mahan played par golf and went to
the turn with a 3-up lead. He birdied the 10th
and not even a chip-in at the 11th could get
the Northern Irishman back into the contest.
Mahan closed him out 2 and 1.
McIlroy began the final like he had just been
thrown out of a saloon bar window. He looked
bleary-eyed and punch drunk. As is often the
case in this championship, the final is often a
letdown. The morning semifinals had drained a
lot of energy.
The Northern Irishman may have lost the
final but won the match that should have been
the showpiece shootout. The Kid shot down the
Old Gunslinger. Got him from behind. Just like
in the movies. It was impossible not to see the
Wild West analogy as McIlroy and Westwood
moseyed onto the first tee against a backdrop
of the Tortalita Mountains. All that was missing
was an Ennio Morricone score blasting out of
the PA system.
There wasn’t so much as a glance between
the two rivals on the practice putting green.
There was an early morning chill in the air and
it wasn’t just the temperature. Westwood raced
to a 3-up lead but McIlroy went past him with a
run of six birdies in eight holes from the sixth
to go 3-up at the 13th. In that comeback run,
McIlroy rammed home 77 feet of putts. Killer
blows for Westwood. Bullets to the heart.
This match had everything the final didn’t:
dazzling chips, birdies rattling in as if it were
the Ryder Cup, air punches, and a personal
edge. They gave each other no quarter. Nothing.
The handshake at the end was of the cactus
kind. Westwood lost the consolation match by 1
down to Mark Wilson but it was defeat to
McIlroy that will have wounded him the most.
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