McDowell and Lowry find mojo at Volvo World Match Play

Defending champion Graeme McDowell fist pumps after going dormie three in his opening match at the Volvo World Match Play. Picture: David Lloyd /

Defending champion Graeme McDowell and rising star Shane Lowry are hoping their matchplay genes will continue to pay dividends after they made winning starts in the Volvo World Match Play Championship at London Golf Club.

McDowell beat last week's Portugal Masters victor Alexander Levy 3 and 2 as Lowry saw off Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher by the same score to give them an excellent chance of progressing from their groups for Satruday's quarter-finals.

Both men could meet at some stage over the weekend but McDowell was simply happy to make four birdies in the first six hole and tuck a win under his belt thanks to some excellent putting.

“My putting today was key but it helps that these greens are outstanding, considering how much rain this golf course has taken," said McDowell who has won his last 11 matches in the event and 15 of the last 17. 

"The surfaces here at the London Golf Club are as good as any you’ll see. Generally if you hit a good putt, it will go in.

“I was generally happy with my driving accuracy today. This is a tight golf course at times, and you have to keep it in play.

"Coming off the win last week, I wasn’t taking Alex lightly. He’s a very good young player, but he just didn’t make as many putts as I did. It’s very important to win that first match this week.”

McDowell won a Walker Cup as an amateur as well as a South of Ireland and an Irish Close title.

But he admitted that it has taken him some time to regain his matchplay mojo as a professional, as he showed when he holed a clutch putt to halve the par-five 15th and go dormie three having just lost the previous hole.

"The putt on 15 was key for me just to keep that three-up cushion with three holes to go and nice to kind of get the job done on 16," added McDowell, who made seven birdies. "There's no easy matches out here. We always say it in match play, there's 16 quality players here this week and you really can't take anybody lightly, especially a guy coming off a victory last week. He's a really good-looking young player and you know, happy to get the victory. 

"Historically here the last couple years, my match-play record, I have been getting off to slow starts and you don't want to put yourself in the hole against good players.

"So getting off to the key start today was big. He missed a 15-footer on two and I missed a great par save on three to keep me hanging in there and then I got going with the putter and I was able to build a little bit of a lead."

He added: "It's taken me a little while to find my match-play edge professionally. I used to play a lot of match-play when I was an amateur. I was always a good match player."

McDowell will face Irish Open champion Mikko Illonen in the second match in the Larson Group on Thursday with Lowry facing Ryder Cup hero Victor Dubuisson in the Gabrielsson Group after the French star began with a 3/2 win over Pablo Larrazábal.

Two up after six but just one to the good through the turn, Lowry 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th to close out Gallacher and knows he is just one win away from an almost certain last eight place and a possible leap into the world's Top 50 for the first time.

"With the format, if you win the first day you know you are probably going to have two goes at getting in the quarter-finals the next two days," said the World No 53. "So I'll just go out against Victor tomorrow and do what I've been doing today and hopefully make as many birdies as I did today and get anther win.

"A winning start is everything this week and I knew I was going to have a tough start against Stephen. He played quite well but fortunately enough I played a little bit better.

"We don't play that much matchplay as pros but as an amateur I played a lot and I am quite used to it. I have won a lot of matchplay tournaments [Close '07, West and North '08, Home Internationals, European Team Championships] as an amateur so I am used to it and ready for what's to come over the next few days."

Like McDowell Lowry knows it won't be easy to get wins in a field that features nine of the world's Top 50. 

"I had breakfast with Jamie Donaldson this morning and we were talking about how strong the field was," Lowry added. "There are no easy matches so to get my first win under my belt was nice."

Despite three-putting the 17th to set-up a nervy trip down the last, Jaidee saw off Italy’s Francesco Molinari two up.

The 44 year old from Thailand has made the cut in all 20 European Tour appearances this term – he also made the weekend in his last four showings last season – and won a sixth European Tour title at the Nordea Masters earlier in the year.

There were also wins for Joost Luiten (1 up against Mikko Ilonen), Paul Casey (2&1 over Jamie Donaldson) and Jonas Blixt (2&1 over US Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed).

The only halved match of the day was between Henrik Stenson and George Coetzee, who birdied the final hole to share the points with the World No 5.