Friday, 19 March 2010
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Round One  (Getty Images)
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Round One (Getty Images)

A dazzling putting display gave Luke Donald victory over ex-Walker Cup teammate Graeme McDowell at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson.

Donald, who last year had to withdraw from the event after suffering a recurrence of his wrist injury, progressed to a second round clash against Australian Robert Allenby with a 2 and 1 victory.

He had no fewer than eight birdies and Ulsterman McDowell commented: "The last two years I've run into a buzz-saw.

"Last year Zach Johnson made eight or nine birdies and Luke just putted the eyes out of it. Every time I smelt a chance he made a putt.

"It does not matter how well you play in this. If someone plays better you go home."

Donald, who was unavailable for The 2008 Ryder Cup after undergoing surgery on his wrist, was runner-up on the US PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles two weeks ago and looks back to near his best.

At 7,849 yards Dove Mountain is the longest course in European Tour history, but although Donald is one of the professional game's shorter hitters the rest of his game still makes him a match for anyone.

McDowell, two down after seven, birdied the next three holes, but did not win any of them.

Donald sank efforts from 16 feet for halves and then went three ahead when his opponent bogeyed the long 13th.

After a putt of over 15 feet kept Donald in the driving seat two holes later, he lost the short 16th and was in trouble on the next before McDowell bogeyed as well - his missed nine footer meaning he had to shake hands.

McDowell was not the first European out of the event, though. Henrik Stenson, winner in 2007 and a semi-finalist 12 months later, lasted only one hole against American Ben Crane before withdrawing.

The Swede, whose compatriots Peter Hanson and Alex Noren were also quickly making exits, said: "It's flu or a virus or something like that.

"I started feeling bad on Monday, but although I was a little bit better this morning as soon as I tried to hit balls it was an out-of-body experience.

"The first tournament of the year didn't really turn out the way I had hoped!

"My wife's expecting a baby (their second) in a week's time. Hopefully I'll not give them the flu."

Hanson lost to Allenby 4 and 2, while Noren was defeated 7 and 5 by defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, who became a father again last week.

There were a lot of eyes on McDowell's fellow countryman Rory McIlroy, a quarter-finalist last year and the fourth seed after his rise into the world's top ten.

But the 20 year old was in desperate trouble when he lost four of the six holes to American Kevin Na.

McIlroy needed to show his fighting qualities and did by winning the seventh, eighth - with an eagle - and tenth, where he holed from 14 feet.

He had also birdied the ninth after an approach to three feet, but Na shared it with a six footer and then went two up again on the 11th when McIlroy, favourite to win the par five after two shots, fluffed a chip and ran up a bogey six.

Paul Casey, who lost last year's final to Ogilvy, was five up with five to play on Canada's Stephen Ames, while Ian Poulter went from two up to two down against American Justin Leonard before hitting back to lead by one with two to play.

In what was shaping up to be a good day for the nine-strong English contingent Oliver Wilson was two ahead of Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner Miguel Angel Jiménez after 13.

Big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, however, was defeated 8 and 6 by Canadian left-hander Mike Weir and Padraig Harrington was level with Indian Jeev Milkha Singh with seven to go.

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