Graeme McDowell gained some Volvo World Match Play revenge over Nicolas Colsaerts and put himself in with a chance of moving to seventh in the world at Thracian Cliffs today.
But he couldn’t escape questions about his soon to be ex-stablemate Rory McIlroy and the reasons why the world No 2 will take the high road and leave Horizon Sports Management high and dry.
Whether or not McDowell owns a piece of Horizon remains to be seen - it’s always been denied - but he spoke like a man who was hurt by his Ryder Cup partner’s decision to set up his own management structure.
“That seems to be the word in the streets, reading between the lines and talking to my guys,” McDowell said when asked by European Tour Radio about McIlroy’s surprise exit.
“It is unofficial. We are waiting for a press release from both parties but I believe Rory is going to part ways and go and do his own thing.
“It is disappointing. He is a good friend. I think Horizon Sports has done a fantastic job for him the last couple of years and we will be disappointed to see him go.
“It is a long career and I am sure relationships will remain amicable. It certainly won’t affect my friendship that’s for sure.”
Asked if he could understand McIlroy’s reasoning, McDowell said: “No, I wouldn’t really have a reasoning. I’d speculate and just say that the pressure that he’s been under this season creates questions around everything we do.
“Players and caddies and coaches and families and management structures and all these beautiful things that we surround ourselves with that we question when things are not going our way.
“Sometimes something has got to give and Rory has made a decision. I am sure he has his reasons and I am sure he knows what he wants to do. And I wish him all the best.”
McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in his last two events, which is being hailed as a triumph of sorts considering his poor start to the season.
McDowell, on the other hand, missed the cut in the Masters and the Players. Yet he won at Hilton Head and appears likely to go to Merion for the US Open in three weeks as one of the hot favourites to add a second major title to his collection.
Bar some loose play in the first few holes after the turn at Thracian Cliffs, he’s made an impressive run to the last four of the Volvo World Match Play, where he will face the solid South Africa Branden Grace on Sunday morning.
Having lost to Colsaerts two years ago and again in last year’s final in Spain, he was pleased to etch out a 2 and 1 win over Belgian bomber Colsaerts as Shane Lowry lost at the 19th to Thomas Aiken in a match he really should have won.
McDowell had to dig deep to see off Bo Van Pelt in the last 16, going from four up with six to play to just one up with one to play before escaping with the tightest of victory.
His match with Colsaerts was a classic match play affair with the Ulsterman going one down after three holes but fighting back brilliantly to establish a three up lead at the turn.
Colsaerts then produced one of the tournament’s lighter moments on the tenth hole as he pulled his drive left of the green into a lateral hazard. His ball entered the hazard by flying over an on-course toilet, meaning the Belgian had to go through the process of literally dropping his ball on the toilet floor in order to adhere to the rules of golf.
From there, Colsaerts was given ‘relief’ from the immovable obstruction, allowing him to drop his ball outside the hazard, from which point he made a sublime up and down for the unlikeliest of par fours.
“It certainly gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘nearest point of relief,” laughed McDowell after the match. “Nicolas actually made an unbelievable up and down there and then he started to come back at me strong.
“It was classic match play where I was the guy in the lead and went a little tentative while he had nothing to lose and could afford to be aggressive. But I got the job done and I suppose there was a little element of revenge in there after him beating me twice in the last two years in this tournament.”
McDowell would love to add his name to the Volvo World Match Play trophy.
“It’s a trophy with so many legendary names on it,” he said. “I think back to the golden years around Wentworth, watching a lot of my heroes winning this great, great tournament, and I’d dearly love to add my name to that list.”
The other semi-final match will see Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee go head-to-head with South African Thomas Aiken after their respective semi-final wins over Peter Hanson and Lowry.
The Clara man, who will move up around eight places to 78th in the world on Monday, was never more than one up against the South African.
However, he bogeyed the last to be taken into extra holes and fell by the wayside.
“Gutted with that loss. Threw it away but that’s golf,” he tweeted.
Volvo World Match Play Championship
Branden GRACE bt Brett RUMFORD 4&3
Richard STERNE lost to Chris WOOD 5&3
Francesco MOLINARI bt Carl PETTERSSON 6&4
Shane LOWRY lost to Thomas AIKEN 19th hole
Scott JAMIESON bt Felipe AGUILAR 1 up
Thongchai JAIDEE bt Peter HANSON 21st hole
Gonzalo FDEZ-CASTANO lost to Nicolas COLSAERTS 2 up
Graeme McDOWELL bt Bo VAN PELT 1up
Branden GRACE bt Chris WOOD 2&1
Francesco MOLINARI lost to Thomas AIKEN 3&2
Nicolas COLSAERTS lost to Graeme McDOWELL 2&1
Scott JAMIESON lost to Thongchai JAIDEE 4&3
Thomas AIKEN v Thongchai JAIDEE
Branden GRACE v Graeme McDOWELL