Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 19 News List

McIlroy defeats Tiger-tamer Clark

AFP , TUCSON, ARIZONA

Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy watches his shot after teeing off at the 10th hole during his match against Tim Clark of South Africa in the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club’s Dove Mountain course in Tucson, Arizona, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Irish golf sensation Rory McIlroy ended Tiger-tamer Tim Clark’s run at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship on Friday with a 4-and-3 third-round victory.

McIlroy, the 19-year-old who captured his first European Tour title with a wire-to-wire win in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this month, won the first hole with a par and never looked back, playing 15 holes without a bogey and five birdies.

The exciting teenager, making his US pro debut, was poised for a star turn at the weekend, after the early exits of Woods and Phil Mickelson, who was beaten 1-up on Friday by Stewart Cink.

McIlroy showed the kind of consistency Clark had demonstrated a day earlier, when he brought Tiger Woods’ return from an eight-month absence in the wake of knee surgery to an abrupt end.

But the South African couldn’t duplicate that performance against McIlroy, who booked a quarter-final clash with former champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia.

Ogilvy, who won the title in 2006 when he also captured the US Open, defeated Colombian Camilo Villegas 2-and-1.

“Tim obviously didn’t play his best golf today,” McIlroy said. “Understandably, he was probably a little flat after all that happened yesterday.”

The more subdued atmosphere at Dove Mountain in the wake of Woods’ departure did nothing to lift Clark. And McIlroy, who was 4-up after six holes, certainly never allowed him a look-in.

“Yesterday, playing on so much adrenaline, it’s tough to come out today,” Clark said. “The excitement obviously wasn’t quite there and I just didn’t hit enough good shots.”

Mickelson failed to reach the quarter-finals for the fifth straight year.

Cink put him on the defensive early, taking a 3 up lead with birdies to win holes two, three and four.

Mickelson twice battled back to square the match, but a double-bogey at 17, where Cink won the hole with a bogey, saw him fall 1-down again and they halved 18 with pars, Mickelson missing a 17-foot putt to extend the match.

“It was a case of who doesn’t want to win this match or who does,” said Cink, who was runner-up to Woods last year. “And we took a long time to figure that one out.”

“I don’t know what to say because I hit it better today than I did the first two matches,” Mickelson said. “But I didn’t get the ball in the hole as well.”

Cink will play South African veteran Ernie Els, who reached the quarter-finals when opponent Luke Donald of England conceded the match on the 18th tee because of a wrist injury.

Donald, who had surgery on his left wrist in August and didn’t play again until December, had trailed by as much as 3-down and was 1-down to Els when they arrived at 18.

But he said he felt something go wrong in his wrist on his tee shot at 17 and didn’t want to risk any new damage.

“I hit my tee shot on 17 and for the first time since coming back I felt a little twinge in my wrist,” Donald said. “I wanted to play it safe and conceded the match to Ernie.”

Two of the five Englishmen in the third round advanced to the quarter-finals, Ross Fisher and Paul Casey.

Fisher posted an impressive and unexpected 4-and-3 victory over US veteran Jim Furyk and will next meet Justin Leonard of the US, who beat England’s Oliver Wilson in 19 holes.

Casey defeated Sweden’s Peter Hanson 3-and-2.

He will play American Sean O’Hair in the quarter-finals, who rallied from 2-down to beat England’s Ian Poulter 2-and-1.

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