A ruthless Graeme McDowell came up trumps where Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley failed when he overcame Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee 2 and 1 in the final of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.
The Portrush native became the first Irishman to etch his name on the trophy alongside some game’s legends and made amends for those painful defeats for Harrington and McGinley against Ian Woosnam and Michael Campbell at Wentworth in 2001 and 2005 respectively.
McDowell, who defeated Branden Grace 3 and 2 in his morning semi-final at the stunning Thracian Cliffs Beach and Golf Resort, was delighted to win for the second time in the space of just four weeks following his victory in last month’s RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour last month.
Those two successes have propelled McDowell to seventh on the Official World Golf Ranking, while his €800,000 first prize took him to the very top of The European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Reading the names of the past champions of the 50 year old tournament that was first staged in 1964, McDowell said: “Els, Montgomerie, Westwood, Ballesteros, Norman, Lyle, Faldo, Player, Palmer – it’s just crazy stuff really.
“These guys are legends of The European Tour and legends of golf so to have your name on a trophy this cool is pretty special.
“I’ll drink a couple cold ones tonight and enjoy this. This is a special moment in my career, no doubt about it. Wins are super special. You know, two in four weeks, that’s great. I mean, I’m feeling pretty good right now.”<
After some seriously explosive golf in both semi-finals – both McDowell and Jaidee played superbly in their respective 3&2 wins over Grace and South African Thomas Aiken – the final was an understandably tight match, with Jaidee taking an early lead to go two up through four holes
A birdie on the seventh saw McDowell half the Thai’s lead before the Northern Irishman made a pair of brilliant back-to-back par saves on the ninth and tenth to stay one down
With the pressure mounting on the back nine, the 33 year old brought all of his US Open and Ryder Cup winning experience to the fore, birdieing the 12th to level the match before Jaidee dropped a shot on the 14th to hand McDowell the lead for the first time in the match
“The key putts really this afternoon were with the par saves on 9 and 10; they were massive,” said McDowell, who added a second Volvo title to his CV having made his breakthrough professional victory at the 2002 Volvo Scandinavian Masters
“I sensed from Thongchai after that that he was starting to fatigue a little bit. I really sensed a bit of an opening. I just had to hit the shots and I did that well coming down the stretch. The mistake he made on 14 and then the birdie I made on 15 was really the telling stuff and I managed t close it out from there.”
Volvo World Match Play Championship
Thongchai Jaidee bt Thomas Aiken 3 and 2
Graeme McDowell bt Branden Grace 3 and 2
Graeme McDowell bt Thongchai Jaidee 2 and 1