Thursday, 17 May 2012
Paul Lawrie  (Getty Images)
Paul Lawrie (Getty Images)
Scot Paul Lawrie started his 500th European Tour event with a 2 and 1 victory over Sweden’s Peter Hanson at the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

The former Open Champion won the 16th with a par to go one-up and then made birdie from five feet on the next after his six iron tee shot kicked off the bank right of the green.

"It came out absolutely beautiful," said Lawrie, who beat Hanson into second place at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters earlier this year.

"But it wasn't much of a game - neither of us holed any putts."

Lawrie and Hanson now have to play Colombian Camilo Villegas, while Graeme McDowell next meets South African Jbe Kruger after his thrilling last-green win over Robert Karlsson.

The 2010 Ryder Cup hero trailed entering the closing stretch, birdied the 16th, got up and down from a bunker at the short 17th and then almost eagled the 568 yard last.

That left Karlsson, in sand for two, needing to hole from eight feet for a half, but he missed it.

"One down with three to play against a great player, I feel very fortunate," said the Northern Irishman.

Top seed Martin Kaymer was beaten 3 and 2 by Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Spain's other winner was Sergio Garcia, who came from behind to beat compatriot Alvaro Quiros 2 and 1.

There was one halved game, last year's Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel making birdie on the last to square things against last year's semi-finalist Nicolas Colsaerts.

In a history going back to 1964 the event had never seen anything quite like Brandt Snedeker's victory over Thomas Björn.

The 31 year old American began his opening group game with just ten clubs in his bag and yet won the first three holes before more arrived.

Snedeker was forced to seek replacements when his usual set went missing en route from Florida on Monday.

They eventually showed up at Malaga Airport this morning, then were driven to Finca Cortesin an hour away and taken to him on the fourth tee.

Under the rules he was allowed only to add four to those he had started with, but was so happy with the driver he had borrowed from Australian John Senden and the putter he had chosen in the pro shop that he continued with them.

"The driver worked really well, so I think it's mine now and no longer his," said the three-time US PGA Tour winner, who hopes to use this week to impress American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III.

"It was kind of a weird day to say the least. I didn't like my chances at all actually - I knew Thomas was a world-class player and it was pretty windy, so I knew it favoured him."

Björn, though, has been suffering from a virus lately - he pulled out of the last two events in America - and he could never recover from bogeying the opening three holes, falling five down after six and losing 5 and 4.

It was not the biggest defeat of the day, however. Robert Rock was beaten 7 and 6 by fellow Englishman Justin Rose, who birdied the first five holes, winning four of them, and later added two more.

Rock is the player, of course, who in January went head-to-head with Tiger Woods and beat not just him, but also world top three Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood in Abu Dhabi.

Under the revised format since Volvo took over sponsorship of the famous event, however, the week is not yet over for Björn, Rock, Hanson, Karlsson, Senden, Quiros or Kaymer.

They could yet make it through to the last 16 if they win their second games. Indeed Ian Poulter won the title last year after failing to win either of his group matches - he halved them both.

Second seed Rose said: "The game was good - I adjusted to the speed of the greens quickly and Robert didn't.

"His only hiccup came when he missed from three feet on the ninth after his opponent had holed from eight.

"I had to remind myself to keep in it and play solid golf."

To guarantee himself a place in the knock-out stages Rose now needs only a half against Open Champion Darren Clarke.

The same applies to Poulter against Tom Lewis, the 21 year old who led The Open Championship as an amateur last July and then won the Portugal Masters on only his third professional start.

Both are from Hertfordshire and Poulter was recently shown a picture of a ten year old Lewis caddying for him at Welwyn Garden.

"I think he's a great player. Also very shy, very quiet - that to me is probably the bit that he needs to try and change in a way," said Poulter after his 3 and 2 win over Senden.

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