Sunday 22 October 2017

Colsaerts blasts his way past McDowell

Nicolas Colsaerts. Photo: Getty Images
Nicolas Colsaerts. Photo: Getty Images

James Corrigan in Casares, Andalucia

If America have big-hitting Bubba Watson for the Ryder Cup, then Europe may well have colossal-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts.

And by beating Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell on the last green in the final, the 29-year-old from Brussels, whose 316-yard average off the tee is longer than that of America's No 1 Watson, is also into both the world's top 50 and a Ryder Cup qualifying position.

The Belgian outblasted and ultimately outlasted McDowell here at the Volvo World Match Play final yesterday, to bank the €700,000 first prize, regardless of his late wobble.

He survived the guile of McDowell and the gales of the Finca Cortesin foothills -- as well as his nerves -- to win on the last and finally secure a cheque that matches his length: huge.

The 29-year-old has always possessed the swing, the physique and the talent to crack the elite. And by entering the world's top 50 for the first time he is now assured entry into next month's US Open, the British Open and the campaign's other main events.

At the very least Colsaerts seems destined to be a notable runner in the qualifying race. Not bad for a player who waited a decade for his first top-flight win (in China last year) and had been written off by many as an underachiever. "It was really tough out there but I managed to hang on," said Colsaerts, who also beat McDowell on his way to last year's semi-final.

"It has always been a dream of mind to play in the Ryder Cup and I hope this win helps me realise it."

Certainly he would be a worthy addition, especially in the fourballs. Colsaerts leads the driving stats in Europe and his average of 316 yards is a yard longer than Watson, the Masters winner who heads the PGA Tour's charts.

While he is No 1 in this category, McDowell is way down in 155th, conceding an average of 35 yards to Colsaerts, although at times his deficit was twice that distance.

However, in devilishly windy conditions, he contributed to his own downfall. McDowell's worst moment was a shank on the 13th at the end of a three-bogey run. When Colsaerts eventually tapped in on the 18th -- having missed a four-footer for victory on the previous hole -- he was four-over, which highlighted the arduous nature of the task as well as his opponent's struggles.

Despite his disappointment, this could be rated as McDowell's best result since his annus mirabilis in 2010, which brought the US Open and, of course, Ryder Cup legend status with his decisive point at Celtic Manor.

McDowell was six-under in his morning semi-final defeat of Rafael Cabrera-Bello and that alone should mean he heads to Wentworth this week with confidence restored.

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As will Paul Lawrie, once he calms down following his semi-final loss to Colsaerts on the second extra hole.

After eight the Scot, who harbours such hopes of making the flight to Chicago in four months' time, was four up. But Colsaerts battled back to force the play-off and then had to suffer a rather ridiculous shoot-out which meant the pair had to go back to the par-three 17th and play behind the second semi-final.

Lawrie's 18-footer to win on the par-three almost went in, but then he was forced to wait for 10 minutes on his third shot into the 18th as McDowell closed out his win. Colsaerts duly birdied leaving Lawrie to march off without saying a word. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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