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Graeme McDowell wins but Rory McIlroy is crushed


Rory McIlroy on his way to defeat last night

Rory McIlroy on his way to defeat last night

Elaine Thompson

Rory McIlroy on his way to defeat last night

Graeme McDowell played ugly to battle his way into the last 16 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship for the first time in his career.

While one Ulsterman was happy to chisel out a 4 and 2 win over stablemate Ross Fisher, he suggested Rory McIlroy needs to learn to grind it out when the going gets tough after an 8 and 7 hammering by American Ben Crane.

McIlroy was distinctly upbeat after suffering the second biggest defeat in the history of the event, but while he was reluctant to point the finger at the 21-year old Holywood-man, McDowell knows that his friend needs to become a more dogged performer on days when things aren't quite clicking.

McDowell said: “To be the best Rory can be, he's got to develop that dogged side to him. He's one of these guys that makes the game look so incredibly easy.

“It's an easy game to be positive and enjoy it when everything is going great, but how do you respond when things aren't going so well?

“I haven't played a lot with him competitively. It's tough to sit here and judge the guy. Maybe he has to learn how to deal with the tough days and just grind it out.

“This is probably an unfair judgment because you have a tough day out here and you're going home, generally. There's no turning 72 into a 69 out there. If you get beat, you get beat. It's not like strokeplay, you can hang tough and hope to shoot 65 tomorrow.

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“It's a pretty brutal format and I've been on the wrong side of it many times. I'm feeling pretty fortunate to be still alive and kicking right now.”

World No. 4 McDowell will overtake Tiger Woods in the world rankings next week, though it remains to be seen if he can go to third in the world. Happy to come through a scrappy encounter against an out of sorts Fisher, he said: “The front nine was reasonable quality golf, but the back nine disintegrated to a comedy of errors. I'm very happy to have survived another day.”

Set to face fellow major winner YE Yang today, McDowell added: “It's nice to be into the Friday match for the first time in this tournament for me. I'll be lying if I said I felt completely in control of my game this week.”

McIlroy was surprisingly philosophical about his defeat against an inspired opponent who was approximately six under par when they shook hands on the 11th.

“I find this easier to take than getting beaten on the last,” said McIlroy, who paid the price for a couple of wayward drives at the wrong time.

“It's matchplay. I have done it to people before and been five and six under through as many holes. This is one of the first times it's happened to me.

“He just didn't give me a sniff and I didn't give myself a sniff either. I just didn't hit it close enough to have chances for birdie and when I did have a chance, he rolled it in ahead of me.”

While McIlroy made his exit, the young guns continued to shine in the Sonoran desert sunshine.

Rickie Fowler (22) produced an eagle and five birdies as he thrashed Phil Mickelson 6 and 5 while Italian teenager Matteo Manassero (17) beat the fancied South African Charl Schwartzel one up.

England's Paul Casey, the beaten finalist for the past two years, lost 4 and 2 to another youngster in 23-year old Australian Jason Day.

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