McIlroy: Loss to Mahan Eased by Win Over Westy
By Stephanie Wei under WGC

Frenemy handshake

First of all, apologies for the delay in posting yesterday’s results — I had a deadline for an SI story and then hopped on a flight to Palm Beach for the Florida Swing. Woot! More posts are on the way, but gotta hit up the range here at the Honda Classic, my favorite regular full-field tour stop.

Rory McIlroy may have lost in the finals to Hunter Mahan and delayed his ascendancy to No. 1 in the rankings, but he still felt atop of the world after winning his grudge match against Lee Westwood earlier on Sunday. The 22-year-old admitted that the semifinals felt like the finals for him. (No, he wasn’t trying to make excuses and it wasn’t sour grapes.)

“This is no disrespect to the other two guys in the other semifinals, Hunter (Mahan) and Mark (Wilson), but it was like my final in a way,” said McIlroy in his post-loss presser.  “I really wanted to (play Lee) — that was the (match) I wanted all week and I got.  And that’s what I got myself up for. Maybe mentally and emotionally (the morning match) 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.  And even though I threw a few birdies and an eagle at him in the back nine, he still responded well and held on.  I think during the course of the week, he had played the best golf and deserved to win.”

McIlroy went 3-down early to Westwood after losing Nos. 2, 3, and 4, but bounced back to dust his frenemy 3&1.

“I knew I needed my best golf out there this morning to get through,” said the world No. 2 when asked why he was so emotionally vested in the match against Westwood.  “Of course, I needed my best golf to win this final this afternoon, but I didn’t really have as much time to think about that.  I had a lot of time last night and going to bed to think about that match this morning.  And that’s the real reason why I wanted to win so badly was because I had a lot of time to think about it and I had a lot of time to think, well, I need to get through this one to get to the final to have a chance.  So it was a big one for me this morning and it was nice to win.  But ultimately I needed to win two matches today and I wasn’t able to do that.”

How about he just really wanted to whoop Westwood’s butt because they secretly don’t like each other. Well, I think Westy is just resentful of Rory’s talent and success, and has constantly tried to mess with the young golfer’s head.

Rewind to the Masters after Rory’s heartbreaking collapse on the back nine, Westwood said, “I’ve played with Rory a lot. When he gets under a bit of pressure he does have a pull hook in his bag.”

Then at the U.S. Open when McIlroy had a six-shot lead going into Sunday, Westwood noted that he’s seen those disappear quickly in the past and said, “(Rory’s) had leads before.”

I don’t buy that it’s just “banter” or “British humor.”

This Rory-Lee thing is becoming a great, intriguing rivalry and we need more of them in golf.

“I hope myself and Lee have a lot of battles in the next few years,” said McIlroy.  “I think it would be great.  I was really looking forward to getting out there and going head‑to‑head because in my mind he is obviously one of the best players in the world.  And he has been for the last couple of years.  He had that little stretch in the mid‑2000s he wasn’t playing that great.  But in 1999, 2000 and 2001, he’s been a great player for a long time.

“Of course, it was nice to beat him, but there’s going to be times where he’s going to beat me and I’m going to beat him.”

Scorecard: Rory 1, Westy 0.

  (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)