Graeme McDowell has expressed his delight this week’s historic Volvo World Match-Play Championship in Bulgaria won’t see a repeat of Ireland’s Arizona anguish.
The WGC–Accenture Match-Play Championship earlier this year saw Ireland’s four competitors — Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington and McDowell — all bracketed in the same group.
Lowry shocked the golf world in defeating McIlroy in the opener while McDowell accounted for Harrington before he then bundled Lowry out in the third round.
However, McDowell and Lowry will tee up this week on opposite sides of the draw in the €3 million event, which begins with two round-robin matches before the knockout stages get under way on Saturday with the last 16 stage.
If so, Ireland can be assured of a first Volvo Match-Play champion in the 50-year staging of the event on the stunning Gary Player-designed Thracian Cliffs course.
“It was a shame all four Irishman were in the same bracket in Tuscon, so that was a little disappointing,” said McDowell.
“It’s disappointing also because you know you have to play one of your friends eventually if you want to win to go all the way.
“So it was pleasing to look at the draw and say to Shane, hopefully I will see you Sunday afternoon [in the final]. That would be very special
“I played 18 holes with Shane on Tuesday and he’s a great player and he proved how good of a match-play player he is earlier this year.
“But then there are a lot of guys also here in Bulgaria this week expecting to be there in the final on Sunday
afternoon, as well.”
McDowell faces England’s Chris Wood in the last of the round-robin matches later today ahead of teeing up against Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher in the last match tomorrow afternoon.
Lowry will not play his first match until 10.45am (Irish time) tomorrow against South African George Coetzee, and with Coetzee scoring early bragging rights in winning a nearest-the-pin contest during Tuesday night’s official get-together.
Organisers arranged for an artificial tee to be set up on the ground floor of a tented corporate enclosure with all 24 players hitting wedges to the floodlit 18th green with a huge fireworks display lighting up the Black Sea shoreline.
And while McDowell and Lowry will draw on their extensive match-play career history, Sweden’s Carl Pettersson has confirmed he has joined the European Tour with a view of securing a place in next year’s European Ryder Cup side.
“It was a bit unfortunate what happened last year, but I really don’t regret or think back about not giving myself the chance to make the team,” he said.
“So now that I have become a European Tour member for this year, and will join next year, it would be great to play on the Ryder Cup.
“I know it will be a busy couple of years competing on both Tours, but it will be a challenge and I’m going to give it a shot anyway.”
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