Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy lost their “mojo” and carded a disappointing 72 in the final round of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup to finish three shots behind winners the United States.
Leading by two shots overnight and targeting a four under par 68 in the foursomes, the Ulstermen were always under pressure from the moment McIlroy missed a two foot par putt on the opening hole. Scores
The American pair of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland started with two birdies and went on to fire a five under 67 to win by two strokes on 24 under par from Germany’s Alex Cejka and Martin Kaymer (69) and England’s Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, who drew on personal pride as they scorched round in nine under 63.
Ireland tied for fourth on 21 under par with Australia, the Netherlands and Scotland as the United States ended their 11-year wait for a 24th World Cup victory.
It was a second successive World Cup disappointment for the Northern Ireland pair, who led by three strokes on the back nine in the last edition of the event two years ago only to finish one stroke behind champion Italy.
This time around their troubles started early, despite the fact that McIlroy set up a birdie with an approach to two feet at the third and then birdied the fifth from 10 feet.
Three putts for bogey at the par-five sixth killed their momentum and while McIlroy chipped in at the tenth, he missed from inside three feet for a second time at the 12th, leading to another bogey six.
Their challenge was all but dead by then and while they erased a bogey at the par-three 15th with a birdie at the 16th, they never threatened.
“We just didn’t have it out there today,” said McDowell. “We had no mojo, we didn’t make anything. We had two of the best breaks we’ve had all year on two par fives and we make six off both of them. That was the story of the day. We made nothing and couldn’t get it going.
“We knew what we had to do today. Our target was to go and shoot four under par and that’s exactly what we needed to do. We just couldn’t get it done.
“We’re disappointed, of course, but this is a high quality golf tournament. The USA have played fantastic, England have played phenomenally well, and that was the high standard that we had to live up to today and we just didn’t do it.”
McIlroy told European Tour radio’s Nick Dye: “Foursome is a difficult format. If you lose your rhythm early it is very hard to get it back. You can go a few holes without hitting an iron shot or a few holes without hitting a putt and that was the story of our day.
“We just didn’t get anything going and I didn’t get us off to the best of starts missing that little putt on the first. But we hung in there tough on the front nine and we made birdie on 10 which we thought might have kick-started something but as Graeme said, we got two good breaks on two par fives and ended up not taking advantage of them. That cost us and we just found it very difficult to make birdies out there.”
Still searching for his first win of a frustrating post-major winning season, McDowell added: “My iron play was very off the boil on the back nine. I hadn’t hit an iron shot for five holes and pulled it left on 10 and Rory just made a phenomenal birdie there.
“My iron play was just weak on the back nine. I put us in bad positions and we just made nothing as well. So it was a frustrating day. That’s twice we have come up short in this tournament. We love this tournament and hopefully we will get a couple more shots at it.
“We had our chances today but as I say, a high level of golf and we just didn’t quite make the birdies.”
Referring to the boost of his chip-in birdie at the 10th, McIlroy said: “That was what we thought was going to get us going to kick start something going and we got up and down on 11 but then three-putted 12. Every time we felt we were getting a bit of momentum we threw it away again.
“We birdied five and I drove it in a bad position on six and ended up getting away with it but every time we made a birdie we ended took a step backwards again, which was the story of the day.”
The Americans were understandably delighted with their victory.
“It feels great,” said Woodland. “It was a very nice week, we were treated very nicely here, and fortunately we played well. We came here and hoping to have some fun, but we set a goal out to win and that’s what we came here to do.
“We played phenomenal, especially today. It’s a tough format, and both of us picked each other up when the other one got in trouble. It was a good day.”
Kuchar added: “For Gary and I to put our name on this trophy alongside Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and Tiger Woods and David Duval and Davis [Love] and Freddie [Couples] and the list goes on and on, it’s a real honour.
“To be able to walk through these halls and to see our pictures and our faces, this is just a fantastic resort. To be remembered here as World Cup Champions is a real honour.”
McIlroy headed from China to Japan where he will play an exhibition match with Ryo Ishikawa on Monday in aid earthquake and tsunami relief.
He will then move on to the UBS Hong Kong Open while McDowell joins Darren Clarke in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City.