Graeme McDowell may have had to put the pedal to the metal in both of his comeback wins at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup stud said he was primed and ready to go for what could prove to be a grudge match with Hunter Mahan in Friday’s round.
"I feel very fortunate again today," McDowell told reporters after his most recent heroics, in which the 2010 U.S. Open champion came back from 3-down against Gary Woodland and Hideki Matsuyama in his first two matches to clinch a spot in the sweet 16.
"I've certainly expended all my energy and emotions the last couple of days," he said, "but thankfully it's early in the season and I've plenty left in the tank."
It's been two fun days here at the Matchplay. I'm all square again for the 5th time. New day. New opponent. Another good player. #letsgo— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) February 21, 2014
Back in '10, GMac gutted Mahan when he drilled a testy downhill, left-to-right breaking birdie putt on the 16th hole at Celtic manor and went on to win 3&1 to clinch the cup for Europe. He made his case Thursday for being one of golf’s grittiest match players, when he rebounded from a 2-down deficit with four holes to go to Matsuyama a day after pulling the same Houdini act against Woodland, dispatching each, 1-up.
All of which had a reporter jokingly ask McDowell if he and Mahan had ever gone head-to-head in competition in the past.
"I think we played together in a reasonably high-profile match there a few years ago, so there's a decent chance he might be out for a shade of revenge tomorrow, who knows," McDowell quipped.
"It's been a long time. A lot of water under the bridge since 2010," McDowell added about the match, the emotions of which overcame Mahan, who could not answer reporters’ questions after the contest.
"He's a quality player. He's got a great record around this golf course. He's going to be a tough nut to crack," McDowell noted. "But I certainly feel I've had a pretty good workout the last couple of days, and I should be in good shape going into tomorrow."
Hunter Mahan vs. Graeme McDowell: McD never trailed in that 2010 Ryder Cup match, taking 1st hole and winning 3&1. he shot 66 thru 17 holes.— John Antonini (@johnantoninigc) February 21, 2014
As for Mahan, the runner-up to Matt Kuchar in last year’s match play defeated Richard Sterne, 2-up on Thursday, and appeared to have put his Ryder Cup duel with McDowell well behind him.
"Graeme is a great player, obviously very tough," said Mahan, who went 3&2 against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in round one. "It's going to be a battle. It's going to be challenge. I look forward to it. I'm excited about the opportunity."