KAVARNA, Bulgaria – Add Graeme McDowell’s name to a list of winners that includes most of golf’s greats. The Northern Irishman became the Volvo World Match Play Champion after defeating Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, 2 and 1 in the final.
McDowell follows in the footsteps of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin, David Graham, Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Sir Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Ian Poulter, among others.
The Northern Irishman picked up just over $1 million for his win. Jaidee took home approximately $500,000.
“I’ve been in control of my emotions most of the week,” McDowell said. “This golf course, the second I saw it I knew it felt like it suited my type of game. It requires accuracy off the tee. I work my driver from left to right and that suits the finishing stretch because that land sits from right to left.”
It is McDowell’s second win of the year, following the RBC Heritage. The victory also makes up for the Northern Irishman’s loss to Nicolas Colsaerts in last year’s final, but he had to win the hard way.
McDowell was imperious in his morning semi-final win over Branden Grace. He recorded eight birdies and no bogeys in 16 holes. He ran out a 3-and-2 winner, the same score by which Jaidee defeated South Africa’s Thomas Aiken.
He had to hang onto Jaidee’s coattails for much of the final. The Thai golfer was 2 up after four but McDowell stayed tough to grind out the win. He has his putter to thank for that.
The Ryder Cup star holed a number of good par-saving putts for halves. He holed from 15 feet at the fifth, 12 feet at the ninth and 8 feet at the 10th hole. He also holed a good 7-foot birdie putt at the 7th to reduce the deficit to one hole.
“They were huge,” McDowell said. “The par putt on five, the par putt on nine was huge and the comeback on 10. They were turning points, and I played strong coming in.”
The 2010 U.S. Open champion got back to all square at the par-5, 12th hole when he made birdie and Jaidee didn’t. Then the turning point came at the par-4, 13th.
Jaidee drove into the base of small bush and had to chip out sideways. The ensuing bogey to McDowell’s par meant the Northern Irishman had taken the lead for the first time in the match.
McDowell then won the 15th with a 6-foot birdie putt and it was basically over. Two halves at 16 and 17 gave him the victory.
Jaidee could have been forgiven for feeling he’d been robbed, but the gracious Thai wasn’t having any of that.
“It’s been a great week,” Jaidee said. “I only made one mistake against Graeme, at the 14th, so it was a solid week for me. For me I didn’t lose. Coming second was good enough for me this week.”
McDowell goes to seventh on the official world ranking as a result. He also heads into next month’s U.S. Open in form. Merion could suit him as well as Thracian Cliffs.
Might he just be on the verge of his second U.S. Open victory?