Lee Westwood versus Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy versus Graeme McDowell. After the complex and rather odd format of the groups stages, this Volvo World Match Play Championship will begin for real here today. Prepare for some intriguing edge in these personal duels between friends.
Except Westwood went away from the course yesterday evening determined that the Twitter banter between he and Poulter would not become too juicy. After the Wayne Rooney incident – which saw the Manchester United striker threatening a follower – and after being bombarded with abuse himself, Westwood, a former Twitter obsessive, is thinking of shutting down his account.
"Twitter's losing its meaning after all the stuff that's gone on recently," he said after crushing Aaron Baddeley 4&3. "It's social networking, not social slagging. I've seriously been thinking about it [shutting down his account]. There are idiots who can't tell the difference between banter and abuse."
McDowell knows what he means. "Some of the nasty ones are downright evil," he said. "People open an account and what they want to do is abuse sportsmen and get a reaction. Rooney gave them exactly what they wanted."
Added McDowell: "On Sunday night after [shooting a final round 79] I put out a tweet explaining what had happened, but I didn't even look at the tweets I received, because I knew there would be abuse. I wasn't going to put myself through it. Paul Lawrie told me this week that he has shut down his account because of abuse. Shame."
And so the big turn-off will soon gather pace and golfers will return simply to being golfers again. That's enough for most fans, particularly when they get last-16 clashes like the ones on show here this morning as the knockout begins. Westwood-Poulter is tasty, McDowell-McIlroy is mouth-watering. The pair have never faced off competitively, but if their "friendly" matches are anything to go by, the US Open champion will be up against it. "He beats the crap out of me every time we play," said McDowell. "He'll be expecting to beat me in the morning. But I'm hoping it's going to be different under the gun. It's a different story. The pressure is on."
Indeed it is, especially as McIlroy was beaten 3&2 by Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts yesterday afternoon, while McDowell beat Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas on the 18th. The problem was these were essentially dead rubbers as all four of these players had already qualified from their three-man groups. The same applied to five of the eight matches that took place yesterday afternoon, a shortfall noticed by Luke Donald.
The world No 2 beat the defending champion, Ross Fisher, 3&1, yet it was anything but gripping. "We didn't have that tension in the match which you need to get the good golf going," he said. Fisher had already beaten Ryan Moore in the morning.
Alas, it was another disappointing week for Paul Casey, who became the only member of the top-eight seeds to be knocked out. Casey seemed to have taken his match with Soren Kjeldsen into sudden death when chipping it stiff in three on the par-five 18th, but then the Dane holed a 30-footer putt from off the green. Casey's expression said it all.
World Match Play Details
Morning session (GB & Irl unless stated): I Poulter halved with P Lawrie; M A Jimenez (Sp) lost to J Edfors (Swe) 2&1 ; A Quiros (Sp) bt S Kjeldsen (Den) 5&4 ; R Goosen (SA) lost to N Colsaerts (Bel) 1 hole; L Oosthuizen (RSA) lost to J Vegas (Ven) 1 hole ; Y E Yang (S Kor) lost to Noh Seung-yul (S Kor) 2&1 ; R Moore (US) lost to R Fisher 1 hole ; A Hansen (Den) lost to A Baddeley (Aus) 1 hole.
Afternoon: F Molinari (It) bt Lawrie 3&2 ; C Schwartzel (SA) bt Edfors 5&4 ; P Casey lost to Kjeldsen 1 hole ; R McIlroy lost to Colsaerts 3&2 ; G McDowell bt Vegas 1 hole ; M Kaymer (Ger) bt Noh 2&1 ; L Donald bt Fisher 3&1 ; L Westwood bt Baddeley 4&3.
Today's last 16: Noh v Quiros; Kaymer v Kjeldsen; Fisher v Schwartzel; Donald v Edfors; McDowell v McIlroy; Colsaerts v Vegas; Westwood v Poulter; Molinari v Baddeley. Quarter-finals this afternoon.