‘Fortunate’ Graeme McDowell clinches late WGC win
Rory McIlroy comfortably beat Boo Weekley 3&2, Ian Poulter furious with defeat to Ricky Fowler
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play Championship at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Graeme McDowell produced a comeback worthy of Lazarus himself when he recovered from three down with three to play to beat big-hitting pal Gary Woodland with a birdie at the 19th in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play on Wednesday night.
The Ulsterman was reeling, four down after seven and three down with three to play before the man from Kansas lost his nerve coming down the stretch and McDowell used all his matchplay nous to clinch a memorable victory by rolling in a six footer for a sweet birdie three at the first extra hole.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have got through that match,” a relieved but delighted McDowell said at the finish. “You could feel the momentum swinging. It wasn’t hard for me to feel positive momentum because I hadn’t felt any all day.
“He had pretty much pummelled me for the first nine holes — like it would have been in a boxing ring and I would not like to fight the guy. He’s a talented player and he didn’t make mistakes and just threw the kitchen sink at me. But just when you think you are dead and buried, (you get) a little luck from the gods.
“Three down with three to go, you are just trying to get to the next hole but he goes over the back and makes bogey on 16. I get to 17 and made the putt. Made it to 18 and he makes the mistake after I hit a good second shot in.”
Rory McIlroy also joined McDowell in the second round. He had too much firepower for Boo Weekley, whom he easily despatched 3&2 to set up a mouthwatering clash with the impressive American Harris English on Thursday.
Nothing that McIlroy did could match the sheer drama of McDowell’s comeback victory that owed as much to Woodland’s inexperience as it did to the Ulsterman’s gritty determination.
Having lost the first three holes, the 2010 US Open champion found himself four down after seven and facing a first round exit for the fifth time in seven years. After halving the par-five eighth in birdie, McDowell clawed his way back to two down by draining a 30 footer for birdie at the ninth and a nine footer for a winning birdie four at the 11th. When Woodland birdied the 15th to go three up with three to play, all looked lost. But the 29-year old American handed McDowell the par-three 16th when he overshot the green by 15 yards and failed to make the putting surface in two.