McDowell claims World Match Play title
Graeme McDowell has become the first Irish winner of the Volvo World Match Play Championship with a hard-fought victory over Thongchai Jaidee in Bulgaria.
McDowell, runner-up last year to Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts, only took the lead for the first time in the final on the 14th hole after several vital par saves on the front nine at Thracian Cliffs.
But the top seed then birdied the 15th to move two ahead and sealed a 2&1 win on the 17th to claim the first prize of £675,000 and a first European Tour title since 2010 to go with his win at the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour last month.
Jaidee had the consolation of £338,000 as runner-up, but could be forgiven for wondering how his name had not joined the distinguished list of winners on the trophy which includes the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els.
Birdies at the second and fourth took the former Thai paratrooper two up, but he missed from eight feet to go further ahead on the next after McDowell had scrambled a par despite taking a penalty drop from an unplayable lie left of the green.
McDowell won the seventh with a birdie to reduce his deficit but was grateful to see Jaidee miss from six feet on the next to win the hole, while McDowell then holed two lengthy par putts on the ninth and 10th to stay in touch.
A superb pitch to two feet on the 12th gave McDowell a winning birdie and got him back on level terms, the momentum seemingly firmly with the former US Open champion now.
Jaidee pulled his drive into a bush on the 14th and the resulting bogey handed McDowell the lead for the first time, which he increased with a birdie from close range on the 16th.
Both players had reached the final with 3&2 wins in the morning's semi-finals, McDowell beating Branden Grace and Jaidee defeating another South African in Thomas Aiken.