MARANA, Ariz. – Hunter Mahan is making it look easy on Dove Mountain’s undulating greens in the Match Play Championship.
Counting conceded putts, Mahan made nine birdies in 15 holes for the second straight day. He beat Steve Stricker, 4 and 3, on Friday in the third round after topping Y.E. Yang 5 and 3 on Thursday.
“Distance control is everything,” Mahan said. “Making sure you’re landing in the right spot and getting the right bounce. We’ve done a very good job of that and been very clear. That’s enabled me to make these solid, aggressive swings. If you get it in the right place, you’re going to have good looking putts and birdies.”
He’s using a new putter after struggling on the greens last week at Riviera in a 24th-place tie in the Northern Trust Open.
“Last week, I had no sense of the greens and missed everything,” Mahan said. “But for some reason this week, I feel confident. I feel confident whenever I get on the green I’m going to make it. It’s a good feeling to have right now.”
He’s using a formula that carried Geoff Ogilvy, Ian Poulter and Luke Donaldto victories the last three years on the Jack Nicklaus-designed desert layout.
“It’s an interesting course because it seems like bombers would eat it up,” Mahan said. “But it hasn’t been the case. So it’s been kind of surprising in a way. It seems like good shot-makers and good putters have won here.”
Mahan will play Matt Kuchar in an all-American quarterfinal.
SOCCER TALK: Lee Westwood finally found a way to beat Nick Watney – and also discovered the American has a passion for British soccer.
“We talked about football going around out there,” Westwood said after beating Watney, 3 and 2, in the third round to exact some revenge for Watney’s second-round victories over the English star the last two years.
“It’s called football, not soccer, and he knows a lot about it. He’s a Spurs fan, so that may mean he doesn’t know a lot about it. He didn’t know Nottingham Forest well, which means he really doesn’t know a lot about football or what league they’re in.
“So, we had a chat going around out there, and I filled him in on the England manager’s job, and how his manager might be a favorite for it, and his team might be trying to keep hold of him. I like playing with Nick. He’s a good lad.”
Westwood will play Martin Laird in the quarterfinals. Laird advanced with a 3-and-1 victory over fellow Scot Paul Lawrie.
KOREAN OPEN REMATCH: Rory McIlroy got a good look at quarterfinal opponent Bae Sang-moon three years ago in the final round of the Korean Open.
Bae won the event at Woo Jeong Country Club, closing with a 4-under 67 to beat fellow South Korean player Kim Dae-sub by a stroke. McIlroy had a 72 to tie for third.
“I was really impressed with him,” McIlroy said. “He’s a very good ball-striker and he played very well then. That’s the only time I’ve played with him.
“He’s been very impressive this week taking down (Ian) Poulter and Charl (Schwartzel), two of the best players. Especially, Poult is one of the best match players, and Charl, obviously, a major champion. So, he’s had a great week so far.”
McIlroy beat Miguel Angel Jimenez, 3 and 1, and Bae edged John Senden 1 up in the only third-round match to reach the 18th hole.
FULL 18: Matt Kuchar finished off Martin Kaymer, 4 and 3, on the 15th hole, then declined a ride to the clubhouse and played the final three holes by himself.
“I was working on a few things that I thought could be tightened up a little bit,” Kuchar said. “All in all, I feel like my game is in good form. I just wanted to play a few extra holes to familiarize myself with them.”
He will face Hunter Mahan in the quarterfinals.
“There’s not going to be any weak opponents here in this field of 64,” Kuchar said. “Hunter has been playing better and better. I know he’s going to be tough.”
DIVOTS: Bae joined K.J. Choi (2008) and Y.E. Yang (2011) as the only South Korean players to reach the quarterfinals. Choi and Yang failed to reach the semifinals. … The third-round losers received $140,000. The quarterfinal losers will get $270,000. The champion will receive $1.4 million, second-place is worth $850,000, third $600,000, and fourth $490,000.