IRELAND’S top two, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, clash at Finca Cortesin this morning in the plum match of the first knock-out round of the €3. 4 million Volvo World Match Play Championship.
Whereas McDowell maintained his 100% record after the second round of pool matches by beating the Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas on the 18th, McIlroy struggled for much of the day and lost 3&2 to the Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, setting up the clash of the two Irishmen.
McDowell had six birdies on his card but McIlroy could manage only two against Colsaerts and so goes into this match as a slight outsider.
McDowell, however, doesn’t see things in that vein. He admitted: “Rory beats the crap out of me when we have practice rounds together and that’s why he‘ll be expecting to beat me. In fact, I have stopped playing him for dollars or pounds or euros or whatever it is because he’s too good for me.”
Much of which, of course, was spoken with tongue in cheek. G-Mac also added: “I’m hopeful it might be different under the gun. This is a big event and the pressure is on. He’s a fantastic player, so talented. This course is all about driving the golf ball and he’s pretty good at that.”
McIlroy was less than happy with the quality of his ball striking against Colsaerts, who has emerged as something of a surprise packet in this event. Earlier in the day, he also defeated British Open champion Louis Osthuizen and so emerged as winner of the pool. Wee-Mac acknowledged that he needed to improve appreciably on his performance against the Belgian and both Irishmen stated they would do all they could to push their friendship into the background.
“You’ve just got to leave that on the sideline,” McDowell stressed. “There will be a certain amount of bragging rights being played for and once the gun goes, we’ll get down to business.
“You can get sucked into pleasantries too much. You need to have that little bit of an edge with your opponent no matter who he is, whether he’s your best friend or not. You must have that killer instinct when it comes down to it.”
As for the friendship element, McIlroy emphasised: “I’ll just try and treat it like I’m playing anyone else. You’re trying to beat him as much as you can and he’s trying to do the exact same thing to you. I’m sure it will be quite a friendly game but we’re here to win a tournament and to do that, I’ve got to get through him. It’s going to be a fresh experience for both of us.”
Asked the length of putt he might be prepared to concede, McDowell suggested “two, maybe two-and-a-half feet … inside the leather, might have to measure a few.”
World number one Lee Westwood has looked a class apart in winning his two matches so far by wide margins and may well be the man to beat. He meets fellow Englishman Ian Poulter in the last match this morning.
The schedule is led by Seung-yul Noh of Korea against local Alvaro Quiros and they are followed by Martin Kaymer against Soren Kjeldsen; holder Ross Fisher against Masters champion Charl Schwartzel; Luke Donald against Johan Edfors; Vegas against Colsaerts and McDowell v McIlroy.
The winner of McDowell and McIlroy meets the winner of Vegas and Colsaerts in the afternoon quarter-finals.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved