Hunter Mahan denied Rory McIlroy the chance to become World Number One by beating him in the final of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play.
After a thrilling semi-final win over Lee Westwood from three down before lunch, McIlroy’s bid to take the world No.1 spot from Luke Donald fell flat when he lost the final 2 and 1 to Mahan.
McIlroy will be playing again this week in Florida – Donald is not playing – but he will be back to facing nearly 140 players there compared to just one.
McIlroy lost his way early on against Mahan after playing some sublime golf against Westwood and just left himself too much to do against such a solid player.
If you remember Mahan was in the crucial game against McDowell in the 2010 Ryder Cup and lost out after duffing a chip shot, so he didn’t have fond memories of playing match play golf against a European, but did well to hang on.
McIlroy said: “I played a great back nine, which was nice, but just left myself too much to do.
“When I didn’t eagle the 15th I knew it was going to be tough because he is very solid from tee to green.
“It wasn’t to be. I didn’t have my best game with me this week, but I’m happy with how I’m playing and hopefully it won’t be long before I’m winning again.
“I’ve got two more tournaments before the Masters and that’s what I’m building up to.”