G-Mac and Wee Mac show great resilience to take their first point
Monday 04 October 2010
"McEurope" won their first Ryder Cup point yesterday afternoon. They had been waiting two years for this – two years and three days after all the rain delays. Graeme McDowell has been known for years as "G-Mac", which on his Ryder Cup debut in America led to European supporters taunting their hosts with the chant: "You've got Big Mac but we've got G-Mac."
"I know I could do with losing a little bit of weight but I'd certainly rather be G-Mac than Big Mac," said the US Open champion. Here at Celtic Manor he has been joined by his compatriot Rory McIlroy. "Does that make me 'Wee Mac'?" chipped in the youngster.
The two Macs won their foursomes match against Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan at the 3 and 1. After a half and a loss in the earlier sessions, McDowell and McIlroy were not only delighted to get their first win together in this most thrilling form of the game but to add to the European blue on the scoreboard.
After America's top pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were pulverised by the home team in the top match, it was vital for McDowell and McIlroy to maintain the momentum. Overnight they were three up after seven holes but it took until the 17th green and a beautiful birdie-putt from McIlroy to seal the victory.
It is a green where their fortunes have been mixed over the last few days. On Saturday morning, McIlroy holed a monster putt up the tier to take their opening fourball match to the last hole, where they secured a half against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar. Given that Cink had rattled off five birdies by himself on Friday, it was a half gained rather than a half lost.
But late on Saturday afternoon, against the same pairing in the first series of foursomes, Cink returned the favour, holing for a two that put the Americans one up when they had been one down on leaving the 15th hole. McDowell and McIlroy could not retrieve the situation at the last and what looked a likely win had turned into a loss.
Colin Montgomerie, the home captain, admitted spending most time with this pairing prior to the start of the third session on Saturday night. There was no question of Montgomerie splitting up the friends, who combined for three wins from four matches at the Seve Trophy last year and were considered one of Europe's banker partnerships.
Perhaps that term has been devalued following the credit crunch. "People expected a lot of them and it is always difficult to achieve one's expectation," Montgomerie said. "They were feeling it and I was concerned with the way their second match finished. So all credit to them for coming out and playing as they did."
McDowell added: "We have been talking about this, winning Ryder Cup points, for a couple of years. I certainly found out two years ago how difficult winning a point is in this tournament and we experienced that the last couple of days.
"Considering the type of matches we were involved in, we're happy with a point and a half from three. To play alongside one of my best friends and who I regard as one of the best players I've ever seen in the world, he's a very special player, it's great to play alongside him."
McIlroy is still only 21. It is hard to believe because he is the ninth best player in the world and won the Dubai Classic last year and a big event in America this year with the little matter of a closing 62.
Despite that incredible performance and the undoubted talent, McIlroy is still learning to finish off victories. The Ryder Cup provides a crash course in getting the deal done and after finally claiming his first full point, he sounded nothing like the naïve kid who in the past had questioned if this "exhibition" was something to get excited about ahead of the game's traditional major championships.
"Today felt great," McIlroy said. "To get my first win under my belt in the Ryder Cup is fantastic. It is special to play alongside this man. He's been great for me and made my life a lot easier, walking the fairways with him. At the start of the week he was the only guy I wanted to partner."
The instructions from the captain on resuming yesterday afternoon were to expect the Americans to start fast and to finish even faster. Johnson proved that right by holing for a birdie at the eighth as soon as the players got out on the course and the American forced McDowell to hole out for a half-in-birdies at the 15th before keeping the match alive by landing a birdie at the 16th hole.
"Stewart Cink beat us up with the putter in the first two matches and it looked like Zach Johnson was trying to do the same," McDowell said. "You have to expect these guys to hole everything but they seemed to keep doing it."
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