Hunter Mahan made three equipment changes over the last few weeks, one of which proved critical for him in winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday. He put a new shaft in his driver to slightly reduce spin. He put in a new 3-wood. And he changed putters.
The latter was noteworthy for no other reason than Mahan has used a Ping Anser style his entire career.
WGC-ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
While working Monday at Dove Mountain, Ping rep Matt Rollins put a laser device in front of the face of Mahan's putter to check his alignment. It showed he was aiming a few inches left of the hole with his putter.
Rollins suggested he try the Nome, which is face-balanced, and the alignment was square. Mahan took the putter with him for a nine-hole practice round and kept it in play the rest of the week.
BACK RELIEF: Larue Branch was standing to the left of the 13th fairway Sunday morning, not suspecting that she soon would be surrounded by a dozen photographers.
Lee Westwood's tee shot on the par 5 went into the gallery and hit Branch on the back, a few inches below her neck. Only then did she realize the ball had gone inside her sweater.
Fans told her not to remove the ball, so she remained still until Westwood and a rules official arrived. Only then did the ball release out of her clothing and onto the ground, and Westwood marked the ball to get a free drop.
Westwood's caddie, Billy Foster, had the best idea.
"Would you mind walking 250 yards forward?" Foster said.
Westwood wound up making par and losing the hole, and eventually lost his semifinal match to Rory McIlroy.
CONSOLATION PRIZE: Mark Wilson beat Lee Westwood 1 up Sunday in the third-place match.
Wilson, the Humana Challenge winner in January, birdied the par-5 13th to take a 3-up lead, then lost the next two holes. He halved the final three holes with pars.
"Thankfully, I came through with three pars at the end and he didn't make any birdies on top of me," Wilson said after playing the 18th hole for the first time. "Lee Westwood is obviously a great player, so it's pretty cool to beat him."
In the morning semifinals, eventual champion Hunter Mahan beat Wilson 2 and 1, and Rory McIlroy topped Westwood 3 and 1.
"I played all right," Wilson said. "It wasn't my best stuff, but I felt like I played OK. I'm disappointed I lost."
He's playing the Honda Classic next week in Florida.
"I'm excited, obviously, for PGA National next week," Wilson said. "I need to get a little rest, though. You won't see me there until Wednesday for the pro-am. I've got good vibes at that course."
Wilson earned $600,000, and Westwood made $490,000.
DIVOTS: John Wood became the first caddie to be on the bag for two Match Play Championship winners. He caddied for Kevin Sutherland when he beat Scott McCarron in 36 holes at La Costa in 2002. ... It was the third American-European final in 14 years at the Match Play, and Hunter Mahan's win gave the United States a 1-up lead. Darren Clarke beat Tiger Woods in 2000, and Steve Stricker defeated Pierre Fulke of Sweden in 2001 in Australia. ... Mahan was the only American that McIlroy played all week. ... Mahan was standing over a par putt on the fifth hole in the final when the wind picked up a table umbrella and light metal post in a hospitality area near the green. The umbrella flew about 25 feet over the crowd before crashing down. No one was injured and Mahan holed the putt to halve the hole. ... Mahan earned $1.4 million, and Rory McIlroy made $850,000 ... Mahan became the sixth player to win more than one World Golf Championship event, joining Woods, Geoff Ogilvy, Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Mickelson. Mahan
also won the 2010 Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.