G-Mac to raise Arizona game
Graeme McDowell hopes he will finally be able to replicate his excellent team match play record in individual competition when the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship gets under way in Tucson this week.
The Portrush native has won 15 of the 21 rubbers he has played in the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Seve Trophy. But the 31-year-old has been nowhere near as successful when competing on his own, managing to get beyond the first round of this tournament, made up of the world's top 64, just once from his four attempts.
The last two years have seen US Open champion McDowell make first-round exits, and he is desperate to stay beyond tomorrow this time by beating Heath Slocum in his opener at the Ritz-Carlton Club.
"I look back at the last two years and I've had my clubs in their flight bag at 12.30 on day one," he said.
"You start to think that this is the worst event in the world, but I have actually played pretty well the last couple of years and shot the equivalent of 67s and just gone home.
"Some other guys have shot 73s and managed to win.
"That's the nature of the beast. You run into a guy who plays great and you have got to try and play better than him."
But McDowell, who already has two third-place finishes to his name in 2011, knows Slocum will not be an easy opponent.
"There are no bad players in this field," he said. "Heath is a very solid player and he is the sort of guy who is going to make me go out and win the match.
"He is not going to be throwing shots away and giving me easy holes."
The world number four was also asked for his views on the furore over Tiger Woods' fine for spitting at the Dubai Desert Classic. McDowell said of his rival's actions: "I know a lot of people have frowned upon it, but we all make mistakes.
"At the end of the day I feel privileged to be playing in the Tiger Woods' era. He has made golf a more profitable lifestyle and he has attracted a new set of fans to the sport."
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy believes the influx of young talent into the game means the sport is set for an exciting future.
McIlroy is one of the leading figures of that youth movement, lying seventh in the world rankings with two professional titles to his name at the age of just 21.
The Holywood star will be among the leading contenders this week in Tucson, where he faces a first-round clash with Jonathan Byrd.
Promising Italian youngster Matteo Manassero will be the youngest player in the 64-strong field at the age of just 17, and McIlroy said: "Yeah, I played with Matteo and it's hard to believe he's in this tournament as a 17-year-old.
"It's pretty incredible, really. There's so many young guys coming through, even the younger guys like Noh Seung-yul from Korea and you've got Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler, Matteo Manassero and myself, all guys that are 21 and younger.
"So, yeah, I think it's great. It's great for the game of golf, it makes it a little more exciting."