Entering the final day of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday, Feb. 26, there were two golfers with a chance to take over the top spot in the World Rankings. It turned out that neither was able to get the job done.
Hunter Mahan ended up winning the tournament to ensure that Luke Donald would remain on top of the rankings. Mahan defeated Rory McIlroy 2 and 1 to pick up the big title. By doing so, he moved into the top 10 in the rankings and built a ton of momentum for 2012.
In the semifinals, McIlroy took on Lee Westwood. Both golfers could have reached No. 1 if they won the event. McIlroy had an impressive run of seven birdies in 10 holes to take control of the match. That denied Westwood a chance to win the tournament. His own chance fell through the cracks when Mahan charged to take a three-hole lead through the first nine. That proved to be too much for McIlroy. He was a little better on the back nine, but it wasn't enough to win. Mahan kept the hammer down and put the finishing touches on his win after the 17th hole.
Mahan became just the sixth golfer to win more than one WGC event since they began in 1999. He won at Bridgestone in 2010. The small group of golfers to win more than one WGC event includes names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. That is some good company for Mahan. He missed a chance in 2011 to take the FedEx Cup after losing in a playoff to Bill Haas. As it turned out, he only needed to wait a few more months to earn a huge title.
Now in the top 10 and with another big championship under his belt, Mahan will hope to add an even bigger one later this year. He didn't perform well at the majors in 2011. He was cut in three of them. He should do much better this year. He is still just 29 years old and one of the bright American stars. This is easily his signature win, but it won't be his last one.* - Mark Paul is an avid golf fan. Follow him on Twitter here.
- Hunter Mahan
- Rory McIlroy