Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

McIlroy still struggling to find form as he bows out

Rory McIlroy crashed out of the WGC-Accenture Match Play at the 20th hole

Ireland's interest in the Accenture Match Play Championship ended last night as Rory McIlroy fell to England's dogged Ryder Cup star Oliver Wilson on the 20th hole of a second-round match the Ulsterman could and probably should have won.

For the second day in succession, McIlroy failed to live up to the high standards expected of him.

He consistently handed the advantage to Wilson as he spurned a series of gilt-edged opportunities from mid-fairway and lacked consistency around the greens.

The match ended on the par-five second hole at the Ritz-Carlton course after McIlroy's tee shot sailed into a bunker to the left of the fairway, forcing him to lay-up to 142 yards.

He then looked on in askance as his approach sucked back off the front of the green.

Outdriven by his Ulster opponent virtually all day, Wilson, nine years McIlroy's senior at age 29, safely found the fairway there, hit his second into greenside rough and very nearly holed an exquisite chip for eagle.

The birdie was conceded and handshakes soon followed after McIlroy missed his 17-foot putt from the fringe rough.

Typical of McIlroy's day was his failure to convert a match-winning chance from mid-fairway at 18.

Wilson produced the shot of the day to land his approach on the upper level within 20 feet of the pin, while McIlroy left his shot a good 60 feet short on the front tier.

Wilson made par easily and the Ulsterman was left with a nerve-wracking eight-footer to send the match into extra-time.

McIlroy was equal to the test there and was unlucky not to finish off Wilson at the first, where his nine-foot putt for birdie and the match appeared to defy gravity as it ran around the rim of the cup.

A disappointed McIlroy said: “I didn't deserve to win today. I only made one birdie all day and I didn't take my chances when they did come.”

Wilson said: “I'm obviously delighted, but it's mainly relief. That's a great scalp for me,” said Wilson who will certainly will have his hands full against compatriot Luke Donald in today's third round.

Donald, returning to form following wrist surgery in 2008, celebrated a 6&5 drubbing of Australian Robert Allenby.

The 32-year-old, runner-up on the US Tour two weeks ago, had opened with an eight-birdie victory over Graeme McDowell and commented: “(It was) another solid day. Five birdies, no bogeys. I picked off the par-fives and Robert didn't quite have his game. He didn't put too much pressure on me.

“I'm drawing on the confidence of the last few weeks. This is my fourth in a row, so to finish as quickly as possible is good for me.”

Last year's runner-up Paul Casey, still recovering from the torn rib muscle he suffered last summer, crushed Canadian left-hander Mike Weir 5&4.

Casey won the first four holes against Weir, who 24 hours earlier had birdied nine of the first 10 holes against Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.

The former Masters champion failed to reproduce that form and won only one hole in the entire match. After his victory, Donald was inevitably asked about the Tiger Woods situation.

Other players, most notably Ernie Els, have criticised the world number one choosing today to make a statement about his future, but Donald steered clear of the issue.

“I'm not really thinking about it — I'm just concentrating on myself,” said the soon-to-be father.

“Tiger's not here and it's irrelevant to waste energy on that. Hopefully the focus can come back to the tournament — I suppose he could have chosen Monday, but he didn't.”

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