MARANA, Ariz. – The beauty and the beast that is match play. That’s the quandary that Graeme McDowell is contemplating as he jumps onto a jet to fly back to Orlando after losing in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship for the fourth time in his past five appearances. This also is the second year in a row that Y.E. Yang has defeated McDowell, this year by a 2-and-1 score.
McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, looked good at times, but after an opening bogey to go 1 down, could get back only to all square for two holes before ultimately losing on the 17th hole.
“I played decent golf,” McDowell said. “I felt like I had to follow him all day long, and I did most of the day, but he didn’t put a foot wrong. That’s the beauty of this tournament. It could be the beast of this tournament, as well.”
Which could be why Phil Mickelson doesn’t make the trip to the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain, northwest of Tucson.
“You just run into the wrong guy on the wrong day, and you have got your work cut out,” McDowell said. “I had my work cut out today, and I didn’t take care of business, so I’m disappointed, yeah.”
McDowell has not won since his U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach, and his recent record in big events, majors and WGC events has been spotty, at best.
After his win, McDowell finished 23rd at the Open Championship in 2011, but missed the cut at the PGA, and came in 22nd at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and 34th at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
Last year, McDowell missed the cut at the Masters, finished 14th at the U.S. Open at Congressional, and missed the cut at both the Open Championship and the PGA. His WGC record is just a touch better, with a 42nd at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, 65th at Bridgestone and third at the HSBC.
McDowell contends he is happy with his game, and his six birdies in 17 holes indicate flashes of his major-championship form.
“It’s the start of a great run of golf,” McDowell said. “I’m very happy where my game is at. I made some great clutch putts out there today.”
However, Yang made seven birdies, including a 4-foot putt on the 17th to close out the match.
“He seems to have my number a little bit,” McDowell said of the South Korean, the 2009 PGA champion who dispatched McDowell in the third round last year. “I have a tendency to bring out the best in guys around this track, for some reason.”