McDowell snakes past Wood in impressive opener

Graeme McDowell brushed aside his rival and a venomous viper to secure the biggest victory on the opening day of the Volvo World Match-Play Championship in Bulgaria.

McDowell snakes past Wood in impressive opener

McDowell was never headed in his match against England’s Chris Wood, cutting Europe’s tallest golfer down to size with a 5&3 thrashing in the €3m event on the spectacular Thracian Cliffs Golf and Beach Resort course.

The current World No 8 and highest ranked played competing along the Black Sea shoreline had missed a short putt to claim the first, but made amends by winning with a par at the second.

McDowell, who was runner-up in the event in Spain last year, won the seventh and eighth holes with birdies and, while he lost the 12th when he bogeyed and Wood managed to birdie, the Portrush man closed out the match by winning holes 13, 14 and 15.

“I played solidly, and it was important to get off to a nice start,” he said. “It really takes the pressure off going into the second round, but certainly you can’t take any match lightly.”

There was a scare for McDowell when he came up to his ball on the ninth, a hole where all 24 players are driving off from an island-like tee box across the beach to the fairway some 200m away.

Lying close to his ball was a yellow-coloured baby viper.

“It was a little tiddler of a snake, but I gave one of my wedges to the rules guy, Kevin Finney, and he moved it away from my ball,” he said.

“I really don’t like snakes and even though it was a baby snake you can be sure there is always a momma snake often nearby.”

McDowell will face Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher this afternoon, after Gallacher takes on Wood in the morning round-robin match.

Shane Lowry makes his debut today and, like Gallacher and all eight unseeded players, will play two matches, facing South African George Coetzee before his afternoon encounter with Sweden’s Peter Hanson.

In the biggest shock on the day, McDowell’s Ryder Cup-winning team-mates Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts were beaten.

Poulter was two-up early against Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee before losing 3&2, while defending champion Colsaerts went down 4&3 to South African Branden Grace.

Poulter had complained on the course of stomach cramps, but would not use that as an excuse.

“No, I feel fine and I’m all right,” he said.

“I’ve played Thongchai before, he’s a great player. I just gave him holes today and you don’t do that in match-play, dead simple.”

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