Rory McIlroy continued his good form in the run-up to the Masters with a thrilling victory over Xander Schauffele in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
McIlroy, who previously won the tournament in 2015, followed up a quarter-final win over Australia's Lucas Herbert earlier on Saturday with a narrow 1-up victory over the American.
McIlroy, who is playing with a new putter and driver shaft, said the psychological toll of the format made it tougher to triumph than many of the other events on the tour.
“I think winning the Match Play is always a massive accomplishment because of what you have to go through,” said McIlroy, who will be hoping to win his first major since 2014 at the Masters – the only big crown he has yet to lift – that starts on April 6.
“It’s seven rounds and, especially this week, I feel like a lot of my matches have been really, really close, so to be able to pull them out when I’ve needed to has been very gratifying.
“Maybe there’s a higher sense of satisfaction when you get through on Sunday night and you’re able to win. I feel like it’s maybe just more of an achievement mentally to do it rather than just winning a four-round stroke-play event.”
McIlroy did not lead until he drained a 12-foot birdie on the final hole to see off Schauffele. He made 17 birdies in the 36 holes he played Saturday.
“I feel great,” McIlroy said. “If someone told me I would be a combined 16-under [for the day], there was no way I would have thought I'd play the 18th twice.
“It just shows the calibre you need to play to beat these guys.
“I got off to a little bit of a slower start this afternoon compared to this morning but was able to sort of battle and claw my way back and I held some great putts down the stretch to finally get the win.”
Defending champion and world No 1 Scottie Scheffler rallied with six birdies in his last nine holes to reach the semi-finals for the third straight year after beating Australian Jason Day 2&1.
Scheffler, who had rallied from two down with four to play to sink JT Poston in the last 16, found himself three down after Day made three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes of their match-up.
But Scheffler hit back by winning the eighth hole then the ninth with a 29-foot birdie, and another gain on the 12th set him up for a second consecutive come-from-behind win.
“It was a tough match,” Scheffler said. “Jason came out of the gates really hot.”
“I just stayed patient. He made a mistake on eight and then I birdied nine and it was a match from there on.”
Scheffler will now play his good friend Sam Burns, who won 3&2 against Mackenzie Hughes, in an all-American clash, while McIlroy faces 15th seed Cameron Young, also from the US.