McDowell given tricky start in VWMP title defence

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Ready for a battle: Graeme McDowell defends his World Match Play title this week

Graeme McDowell will open the defence of his Volvo World Match Play title with a match against in-form Frenchman Alexander Levy, the winner of last week’s weather-affected Portugal Masters.

Ryder Cup star McDowell, who beat Thongchai Jaidee in last year’s final, has been drawn against Levy, Dutchman Joost Luiten and Finn Mikko Ilonen in the group stages of the 50th anniversary edition of the tournament, which gets underway at London Golf Club, in Kent, today.

McDowell is the top seed in the Gustaf Larson Group, whilst the leading lights in the Arnold Palmer, Mark McCormack and Assar Gabri­elsson groups are Henrik Sten­son, Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson respectively.

“It took me probably the best part of a week and a half to get over it,” said McDowell, playing for the first time since the Ryder Cup. “I got a bout of flu when I came home.

“You’re coming off the high emo­tionally, physically and mentally of the Ryder Cup.

“There’s a come down, there’s no doubt about it. When you have so much adrenaline flying through your system, you’ve got to come off that and sometimes your body is a little susceptible to getting ill.”

World No5 Stenson will get his challenge underway against George Coetzee, a late replacement for the injured Thomas Bjorn.

Donaldson starts with an intrigu­ing match-up against the 2006 champion Paul Casey.

Dubuisson will be hoping to go one better than his WGC-Accen­ture finish this week, where his first opponent is Pablo Larrazabal.

Another noteworthy match fea­tures two stars from the PGA Tour, Swede Jonas Blixt and American Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed.

The last match out features Stephen Gallacher against Ireland’s Shane Lowry.

The group stages are spread across the first three days, with the quarter finals – featuring the top two players from each of the four groups – taking place on Saturday.

The semi-finals and final take place on Sunday, with the cham­pion  collecting ¤650,000 (Dh3m).

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Woods and Mickelson to lead Team USA Ryder Cup task force

Phil Casey 14/10/2014
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Leading figures: Phil MIckelson (l) and Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are part of an 11-strong "task force" created to examine all aspects of the US Ryder Cup process in the wake of last month's defeat at Gleneagles. But the man praised by Mickelson as creating a winning formula, 2008 captain Paul Azinger, has turned down the chance to formally take part.

In a statement on their website, the PGA of America said the task force would examine the selection of Ryder Cup captains and vice-captains, the qualifying system, the dates by which the team is determined and the timing of wild card selections.

"The Ryder Cup is our most prized competitive asset and the PGA of America is committed to utilizing our utmost energy and resources to support one of the biggest events in all of sport," PGA of America president Ted Bishop said.

"The Ryder Cup Task Force, co-chaired by ( PGA vice president) Derek Sprague and ( PGA chief executive officer) Pete Bevacqua, is an exciting and comprehensive initiative that will guide the PGA in developing the right strategy and building ongoing processes and infrastructure for future generations of US teams."

In addition to Sprague and Bevacqua, the members of the task force are former captains Raymond Floyd, Tom Lehman and Davis Love, former players Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Woods and PGA secretary Paul Levy.

Woods, who was not part of the team in Gleneagles, said: "I think this is a great step by the PGA to accomplish what we all want – to win the Ryder Cup.

"The Ryder Cup is very important to every player who has the honour to represent his country. I'm excited to be part of this group."

Azinger is the only man to lead the United States to victory in the biennial contest this century and his approach was hailed by Mickelson in the US team's press conference in the immediate aftermath of the five-point loss in Scotland.

The 54-year-old has not ruled out being captain for a second time but did not want to be part of the task force.

"I think Paul felt more comfortable with us talking in a small setting," Bevacqua was quoted as saying by the Golf Channel.

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Levy wins Portugal Masters after tournament reduced to 36 holes

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Swinging in the rain: Levy with the trophy after the event was reduced to 36 holes.

 Alexander Levy has won the Por­tugal Masters after the event was reduced to 36 holes as more rain battered the Oceanico Victoria Golf Club course.

The tournament had already been reduced to 54 holes after heavy rain on Thursday evening and Friday.

Levy and playing partner Nicolas Colsaerts had played just a single hole of their third and final round yesterday when the heavens opened once more, drenching the course, with organisers deciding at approxi­mately 3.15pm that the result would be decided on 36-hole scores.

That meant the Frenchman, who had recorded rounds of 63 and 61, claimed his second European Tour win following his victory at the Vol­vo China Open in April.

“It feels very special,” he said. “If at the start of the year you told me, ‘You are going to win two tourna­ments’, I (would) say ‘never’ to you.

“It’s a very nice feeling to me. I’m very happy. I work hard on this game and I think I played a good game this week.”

Levy was one of the lucky ones who managed to get his second round completed on Friday mean­ing he did not play at all on Satur­day and he admitted it was a strange feeling to have won after playing only two rounds.

“It’s special,” he added. “Because you are only on 36 holes but after Friday I knew I would only play 54. But it’s a special feeling at this time.

“I was focused to play this last round and try my best to win this tournament.”

Levy will now head to Kent to play in the World Matchplay next week before he approaches the Final Se­ries as the Race to Dubai reaches its conclusion and he is hopeful of maintaining his good form.

“I’m going to try to play like I played the first two rounds,” he said. “I’ve impressed myself with the way I’ve played golf and I think I need to continue like that.”

Colsaerts parred the first along­side Levy and finished three shots behind him on 15-under with Chile’s Felipe Aguilar two shots fur­ther back and Dane Morten Orum Madsen, Romain Wattel and Rich­ard Bland on 11-under.

Only four players managed to complete their final rounds, includ­ing victorious Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, but none of the field were looking like mounting a seri­ous charge on the leaders when play was stopped.

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