Sunday 18 February 2018

McDowell can help Woodland atone for McIlroy defeat

Gary Woodland
Gary Woodland

William S Callahan

Rory McIlroy crushed Gary Woodland's dreams of a tournament victory but what Rory took away, his friend and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell can give back.

Woodland came through the pack impressively in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play last May to reach the final, where McIlroy was in imperious form and despatched the American 4&2.

It may not be huge consolation but Woodland has an outside chance to join with McDowell in taking the Franklin Templeton Shootout title at Tiburòn GC in Florida today.

The pair are friends and neighbours in Lake Nona and form a strong partnership, with the American booming long drives, while the European Ryder Cup star does his best to profit from his short game expertise.

McDowell commented: "I enjoy the camaraderie of the team event. The two-man team getting together playing for each other is somewhat fun, but just generally there's a relaxed atmosphere.

"A couple of Pro-Ams, good friends, good people, good hospitality and an easy, relaxed way to finish out the year.

"But it gets serious come Saturday, the last day. It gets a little juicy at that point."

First prize is $770,000 (€700,697), with each man receiving $385,000 (€350,324), which is a good reason for things to get "juicy" as McDowell describes it.

This 54-hole, $3.1m event is hosted by Greg Norman and is a huge fundraiser for charity.

It features 12 teams of two players and started on Thursday with a scramble, followed by modified alternate shot (Scotch Foursomes to Irish golfers), and concludes with fourball, better ball today.

A first-round 13 under par had McDowell and Woodland just a shot behind overnight leaders Harris English/Matt Kuchar.

Yesterday was a different story as the McDowell/Woodland partnership stalled on the 13-under mark for most of the day before edging to 15 under with two birdies in their last five holes.

The fast movers of the day were Daniel Berger - beaten in a play-off for the Honda Classic by Padraig Harrington last March - and his playing partner Charley Hoffman. They set the pace at 20 under par, with Jason Dufner/Brandt Snedeker and English/Kuchar one short behind.

Meanwhile, in Mauritius, Des Smyth and Philip Walton each shot a level-par 72 in the first round of the European Senior Tour Championship at Constance Delle Marie Resort.

David Frost of South Africa led the field with a seven-under-par 65 which included four birdies and an eagle in his last six holes.

England's Paul Eales, who played alongside Smyth, was in second place on 65, with Colin Montgomerie, Luis Carbonetti (Italy) and South Africa's Chris Williams all on 68.

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