Sport Golf

Monday 19 March 2018

McDowell grinds out last 16 spot

Rory McIlroy chips onto the sixth green during the second round of the
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Rory McIlroy chips onto the sixth green during the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Brian Keogh in Tucson

Graeme McDowell played ugly to battle his way into the last 16 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship for the first time in his career.

But while the Ulsterman was happy to chisel out a grim 4 and 2 win over stablemate Ross Fisher, he suggested pal Rory McIlroy needs to learn to grind it out when the going gets tough following his 8 and 7 hammering by American Ben Crane.

McIlroy was distinctly upbeat after suffering the second biggest defeat in the history of the event. But while he was reluctant to point the finger at the 21-year-old Holywood star, McDowell knows that his friend needs to become a more dogged performer on days when things aren't quite clicking.

McDowell said: "To be the best Rory can be, he's got to develop that doggedness side to him. He's one of these guys that makes the game look so incredibly easy. It's an easy game to be positive and enjoy it when everything is going great. But how do you respond when things aren't going so well?

"I haven't played a lot with him competitively. It's tough to sit here and judge the guy. Maybe he has to learn how to deal with the tough days and just grind it out.

"This is probably an unfair judgment because you have a tough day out here and you're going home, generally. There was no turning 72 into a 69 out there today. If you get beat, you get beat. It's not like stroke play, you can hang tough and hope to shoot 65 tomorrow.

"It's a pretty brutal format, this, and I've been on the wrong side of it many times. I'm feeling pretty fortunate to be still alive and kicking right now."

World No 4 McDowell will overtake Tiger Woods in the world rankings next week, though it remains to be seen if he can go to third in the world.

Happy to come through a scrappy encounter against an out of sorts Fisher, he said: "The front nine was reasonable quality golf but the back nine disintegrated to a comedy of errors. I'm very happy to have survived another day. And it gets fun from here on."

Set to face fellow major winner YE Yang today, McDowell added: "It's nice to be into a Friday match for the first time in this tournament.

"I'll be lying if I said I felt completely in control of my game this week."

McIlroy was surprisingly philosophical about his 8 and 7 defeat against an inspired Crane, who was approximately six-under-par when they shook hands on the 11th.

"I find this easier to take than getting beaten on the last," said McIlroy, who paid the price for a couple of wayward drives at the wrong time. "He's a great player. He's solid and if he plays in spurts like that he is going to be tough to get rid of.

"It's match play. I have done it to people before and been five and six under through as many holes. This is one of the first times it's happened to me.

"It wasn't even momentum. Your opponent just plays better than you and keeps the foot down all the time. When you get up, you just don't let the opponent get back in and that's what he did today.

"He just didn't give me a sniff and I didn't give myself a sniff either. I just didn't hit it close enough to have chances for birdie and every time I did have a chance, he rolled it in ahead of me."

While McIlroy made his exit, the young guns continued to shine in the Sonoran desert sunshine. Rickie Fowler (22) produced an eagle and five birdies as he thrashed Phil Mickelson 6 and 5, while Italian teenager Matteo Manassero (17) beat the fancied South African Charl Schwartzel one up .

England's Paul Casey, the beaten finalist for the past two years, lost 4 and 2 to another youngster in 23-year old Australian Jason Day.

Accenture Match Play

Live, Sky Sport 3, 7.0

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