Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell remain on target for an all-Ulster quarter-final showdown after strong victories on day one of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain.
McIlroy humbled double U.S. Open champion, Retief Goosen when he chipped-in for birdie at the last to defeat the South African 1 up on the Finca Cortesin course.
Moments later, McDowell was shaking hands with reigning British Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen after handing Goosen's compatriot a 3 & 1 defeat.
McIlroy and McDowell were among six players from last year's European Ryder Cup winning side to taste success.
World No. 1 Lee Westwood and Spain's wily, Miguel Angel Jimenez were the biggest winners with Westwood hammering Denmark's Anders Hansen a 6 & 5.
Jimenez toasted a similar winning margin over Masters winning hero, Charl Schwartzel.
England's and World No. 2, Luke Donald defeated the only American in the event, Ryan Moore 4 & 3 while Spaniard Alvaro Quiros humbled England's Paul Casey, and a former World Match-Play winner, 3 & 1.
Germany's Martin Kaymer beat fellow U.S. PGA champion, Y. E. Yang 2 & 1 while Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari played out the only draw of the day.
McIlroy was 1 up after two holes but 2 down through seven before back-to-back birdies squared the match again.
Their encounter remained tantalisingly in the balance until
Goosen doubled the 14th hole before McIlroy went 1 up with a birdie at the next.
However, there was an anxious moment at the last when the Holywood man found a greenside bunker to the right of the flag and well below the green.
He then played a poor shot, later remarking the sand had not been raked properly, with the ball coming up short, perched perilously at the top of the slope but some 18-feet from the flagstick.
Goosen had found the green in three and needing to hole a 15-footer for birdie to have any chance of victory.
However McIlroy calmly chipped-in to take the win.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match against Retief because he's such a solid player, and he's never going to go away,” said McIlroy. “Beating an opponent like that in the first round is great for your confidence for the next couple of days.”
McDowell was very pleased to bury any lingering demons following last Sunday's Players Championship plunge.
“To win today was the best tonic for me, and now I'm looking forward to the weekend,” he said.
McDowell's next match is this afternoon against Jhonattan Vegas whereas McIlroy will face Volvo China Open champion, Nicolas Colsaerts of Belguim.
A draw would see both progress through to the knock out stages on Saturday, and if McIlroy and McDowell should win then they face each other in the quarter-finals.
“I find it surprising that Rory and I have not come up against each other and sort of had a little chip at each other,” said McDowell. “We've joked and talked about having a Sunday afternoon duel somewhere, so it looks like now that if we both do the job tomorrow we are heading for a Saturday afternoon match-play.
“It would be great to play him but the only problem is that if it happens only one of us will go through with the chance to win the final.”