Graeme McDowell denied he became “rattled by the pressure” in his Volvo World Match Play Championship final defeat by Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts at Finca Cortesin yesterday.
The Portrush native seemed ideally suited to coping with the 50km per hour winds that swept the course but instead the underdog mastered the conditions to claim a one-hole victory and a cheque for €700,000. McDowell had to be content with €360,000
However hard the Irishman tried to put a gloss on the situation and how worthily he battled to bring the match all the way to the final green, McDowell would have known he came up well short in his pursuit of the top prize. On three occasions he had to either take a penalty drop or come out sideways from the positions he found himself in as the direct result of poor ball striking.
The final contained only two birdies, one each, along with a Colsaerts eagle at the third. Admittedly it was a dispiriting affair, taking four-and-three-quarter hours to complete. McDowell was never in front and it was a mystery that he was able to prolong the proceedings to the 18th green.
Colsaerts said: “I knew it was going to be tough against Graeme, a winner of the US Open and someone used to playing in tough conditions. This means everything to me. A few days ago I was taking a nap in my bedroom and was thinking about my flight home. I’ve always done well in matchplay. The format suits me because I’m the kind of player who can make a lot of birdies. If I can avoid mistakes, I’m going to be quite tough.”
The win puts Colsaerts on the cusp of the automatic top ten Ryder Cup places but the manner in which he pulled it off suggest that he might be just the kind of stubborn and skilful match player from which Jose Maria Olazabal’s team would benefit at Medinah next September.
Much the same, of course, applies to McDowell who insists there are positives he can still take out of the week.
“I played fantastic in the morning and the same on Saturday morning but I struggled on the greens all week. In conditions like this, you just have to putt well.
“I ran into a guy (Colsaerts) who’s a hell of a good player. He killed me off the tee box and flighted his irons fantastically well. I would have preferred to be beaten with birdies rather than pars but like I say, I’m not taking anything away from Nicolas.”
It was most unusual to see McDowell, usually a model professional on and off the course, fling his club away in anger after playing a poor second shot to the 16th.
Asked if he had become rattled out there, he insisted: “I was rattled by the elements. It’s very difficult to go in there hitting putts quickly before the next gust comes along and that’s no way to putt. You can’t have your normal routine because you’re trying to hit it quickly. So yeah, I was rattled by the elements, I certainly wasn’t rattled by the pressure or any of that kind of stuff.”
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