McIlroy chips in at last as the big shots win opening battles - Golf - Sport - The Independent

McIlroy chips in at last as the big shots win opening battles

So much for matchplay being a lottery. Five of the world's top six are here in Andalucia and each of them shrugged off the supposed volatility of the head-to-head format to win their opening matches. For yesterday at least, all the balls rolled out in order for the multi-millionaires.

Lee Westwood was ominously impressive, Luke Donald was characteristically solid, but, as ever, the hardest-earned was the most noteworthy. Judges such as Butch Harmon have criticised Rory McIlroy's short game, but here he was chipping in at the last to beat the two-time major champion Retief Goosen.

In the wake of his Masters meltdown, McIlroy's nerve was also questioned. Well, one down with three to play, Goosen proceeded to pick up two birdies. McIlroy matched him. You don't expect to lose when carding six birdies, but that fate befell Goosen. Bottle from Rory, indeed. "It was a tough match, no quarter was given," said the 22-year-old. "That chip-in was nice. I always seem to do it the hard way in matchplay. But it feels good when you come through a battle like that."

Graeme McDowell would say Amen to that. He responded to his own capitulation in last Sunday's final round of The Players – a 79 that saw him plummet from first to 33rd – with a 3&1 success over Louis Oosthuizen. "I've put last Sunday down as a blip on the radar," said the US Open champion after defeating the Open champion. "I wouldn't have liked a week off to dwell on it. So it was nice to get out there today and win."

McDowell and McIlroy, countrymen and great friends, are seeded to meet in tomorrow's quarter-finals. Yet it is another projection doing most to raise the mercury on the Costa del Sol. After his 4&3 win over the American Ryan Moore, Donald expressed his own desire to play Westwood in the final. World No 1 versus world No 2 would be some scenario, particularly for Donald, who beat Martin Kaymer in the "other" World Match Play in February, when the German was top dog.

"I would love to play Lee," said Donald, further emphasising his new hard edge. "Just like playing Martin in the final at Tucson. It's more satisfaction when you take down the best player in the world."

Certainly, Westwood wouldn't duck from the battle. Donald's confidence may be obvious, but then so, too, is that of his fellow Englishman, having lifted back-to-back titles at Indonesia and Korea. The 38-year-old claims to have rediscovered the winning feeling which brought him 24 wins before his 28th birthday. Anders Hansen would agree, having suffered a 6&5 humbling which featured six Westwood birdies in eight holes from the fourth.

Kaymer, the world No 3, also joined the high-ranking celebrations, fighting back from a two-hole deficit after the 11th against the Korean Y E Yang to come through 3&1. Like the others, the German now only needs a halve today to ensure he qualifies from his three-man group and into the last 16 who will contest the weekend's knockout stages.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests