McDowell eyes improvement

Graeme McDowell hopes he will finally be able to replicate his excellent team match play record in individual competition when the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship gets under way in Tucson this week.

Graeme McDowell hopes he will finally be able to replicate his excellent team match play record in individual competition when the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship gets under way in Tucson this week.

The Northern Irishman, whose memorable birdie putt on the 16th green at Celtic Manor effectively sealed Europe’s Ryder Cup success back in October, has won 15 of the 21 rubbers he has played in the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Seve Trophy.

But the 31-year-old has been nowhere near as successful when competing on his own, managing to get beyond the first round of this tournament, made up of the world’s top 64, just once from his four attempts.

The last two years have seen US Open champion McDowell make first-round exits, and he is desperate to stay beyond Wednesday this time by beating Heath Slocum in his opener at the Ritz-Carlton Club.

“I look back at the last two years and I’ve had my clubs in their flight bag at 12.30 on day one,” he told a press conference.

“You start to think that this is the worst event in the world, but I have actually played pretty well the last couple of years and shot the equivalent of 67s and just gone home.

“Some other guys have shot 73s and managed to win. That’s the nature of the beast. You run into a guy who plays great and you have got to try and play better than him.”

But McDowell, who already has two third-place finishes to his name in 2011, knows Slocum will not be an easy opponent.

“There are no bad players in this field,” he said. “Heath is a very solid player and he is the sort of guy who is going to make me go out and win the match. He is not going to be throwing shots away and giving me easy holes.”

The world number four was also asked for his views on the furore over Tiger Woods’ fine for spitting at the Dubai Desert Classic.

McDowell defeated Woods in a play-off at the Chevron World Challenge towards the end of last season, and said of his rival’s actions: “I know a lot of people have frowned upon it, but we all make mistakes.

“At the end of the day I feel privileged to be playing in the Tiger Woods’ era. He has made golf a more profitable lifestyle and he has attracted a new set of fans to the sport.”

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