McDowell Closing in on History in Bulgaria; Matchplay Magic from Ulsterman
Byline: Graham Otway
GRAHAM McDowell is on course to become the first Irishman to lift the Volvo World Matchplay Championship after a hot birdie run in Bulgaria yesterday.
Despite a late blip he gained revenge over the big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts, who beat him in last year's final and the quarter final two years ago. His 2&1 victory over the Belgian earned him a battle against South African Branden Grace in this morning's semifinal.
There is also the prospect of pocketing the [euro]800,000 winners' pot, which will give McDowell the opportunity to leave Bulgaria on the back of golfing headlines to partially cover up his revelation that Rory McIlroy is quitting the Dublin-based sports agency Horizon to set up his own management team.
Questioned on that again last night McDowell said he was disappointed neither McIlroy or Horizon's Conor Ridge didn't clear up the matter. He also backed down slightly on his initial comments that appeared to make the Horizon team scapegoats for the world number two's poor start to this season.
'It's not confirmed yet,' he said. 'But it's the word on the street and what I have been hearing from my guys. It's tough. I can't confirm it 110 per cent but it does seem like the parting of the ways.
'I am not saying Horizon are scapegoats but just giving an example of how we react under pressure and being stressed out about our golf. We like to question everything around us. The caddie is generally the first to go, then the coach and not far behind down that pecking order is the management.
But I believe it is an amicable split.' Reacting to pressure on the course has been a key to McDowell's success this week. Despite building big leads early on in his two matches yesterday, first against American Bo Van Pelt and later Colsaerts, he falted mid-round. He struggled to cope with the tough demands of a stretch of tricky holes from the 12th through to the 16th.
In the afternoon there was one light hearted incident when Colsaerts drove his ball into a portaloo and had to take relief. …