MARANA, Ariz. — Rory McIlroy was walking down the stairs toward the driving range when he passed Lee Westwood and gave him the same message he had delivered earlier Saturday in the Match Play Championship.
"See you in the morning," McIlroy said with a big smile. "Just like I told you."
In 14 years of this fickle tournament, there has never been a semifinal match so compelling.
McIlroy had another surge on the back nine to put away Bae Sang-moon, 3 and 2. Moments later, Westwood finished off Martin Laird by the same margin, setting up a showdown today with more at stake than just a spot in the championship match.
Should the McIlroy-Westwood winner go on to take the World Golf Championships event, he would be ranked No. 1 in the world.
"I think with both of us being up there in the world, and both of us with the possibility of going to No. 1, it gives the match definitely an extra little bit of spice," McIlroy said.
The duel was not lacking spice in the first place.
They were stablemates at International Sports Management until some testy exchanges last year.
After McIlroy shot 80 in the final round of the Masters to blow a four-shot lead, Westwood, 38, of England, got under his skin by saying the 22-year-old Northern Irishman "has a pull hook in his bag under pressure." Then McIlroy was the first of the two to win a major, setting records at Congressional on his way to an eight-shot win in the U.S. Open.
Later in the year, when McIlroy left Chubby Chandler at ISM, Westwood tweeted that it was a bizarre move. McIlroy quickly un-followed Westwood and Chandler on Twitter.
Both players say their relationship is no different than with other golfers. They don't spend as much time together, understandable because they no longer have the same manager.
"There's nothing strained about the relationship between the two of us. It's still the same as it was," Westwood said. "Rory said to me before I went out, 'See you tomorrow morning.' And then today again there, he said, 'See, told you.' That's the trouble with kids nowadays. They think they're always right, don't they?"
Today's duel begins as the sun begins to climb over the high desert. "I think it's the match that most people wanted, and definitely the match that I wanted," McIlroy said.
The other semifinal features Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson, assuring an American will make the final for the first time since Tiger Woods won in 2008.
Mahan played the shortest quarterfinal in the 14-year history of the event, beating Matt Kuchar 6 and 5. Wilson had an easy time in his 4-and-3 win over Peter Hanson of Sweden.
PGA: Daniel Summerhays shot 4-under 67 to take a two-stroke lead over Chris Stroud at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Summerhays was at 12-under 201 through three rounds.
LPGA: Americans Katie Futcher and Angela Stanford and South Korean Jenny Shin all shot 1-under 71 to stay tied for the lead after three rounds of the $1.4 million HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. Futcher's bogey on No. 18 left all three players at 207. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (73) was at 1-over 217 and Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (76) was 5 over.