McDowell overhauls Clarke at the last

Graeme McDowell pulled off an unlikely victory over his fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke in the first round of the World Match Play Championship in California yesterday.

Clarke, the 2000 champion, was never behind until his 25-year-old opponent produced a brilliant shot from thick rough on the last and then sank a four-foot birdie putt. "I'm pretty pumped up about that," said McDowell, who now faces the Australian Robert Allenby. "The last green is always a good time to go one up." Clarke, who had been two up with six to play, said: "I played poorly and got what I deserved."

There were other notable wins from the British contingent, David Howell thrashing Shigeki Maruyama six and five, Lee Westwood easily seeing off Steve Flesch four and three and Ian Poulter trumping those by beating the former US Open champion Jim Furyk three and one.

Westwood was never behind from the time Flesch bogeyed the second, and the American played the first 12 holes in four over par to stand five down. Westwoodnow faces Davis Love, runner-up a year ago, who overcame his Ryder Cup team-mate Chris Riley with a last-hole birdie. Howell eagled the 11th and finished off Maruyama with a 14-foot birdie putt two holes later. "I got on a good run, and everything I tried seem to work," said the Swindon golfer. Poulter lost the 16th when Furyk holed from nearly 25 feet, but the Milton Keynes player was able to celebrate an excellent victory on the next green.

Nick Faldo is at the tournament for American television but his attention was on other matters, too. He felt"quite amazed" that just days before the meeting to decide Europe's next Ryder Cup captain he had not been asked to make his case.

The European Tour players' committee are to announce their choice in Dubai next Wednesday and it is expected to come down to Faldo or Ian Woosnam, with the Welshman the favourite. But it is possible that whoever is not appointed for the K Club, near Dublin, next year will be earmarked for the 2008 match in America.

Faldo is happy with that, but complained about the decision-making process. "It's quite amazing that they have never called me in to sit with the committee and asked 'what are your plans?'," he said.

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