ASH England (Reuters) - Graeme McDowell had his “heart ripped out” by Dutchman Joost Luiten on Friday as the title holder was sent crashing out of the Volvo World Match Play Championship at the London Club.
Luiten, who finished off the Northern Irishman with three birdies in the last four holes, made it three wins from three round-robin encounters to secure a quarter-final meeting with Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal on Saturday.
World number five Henrik Stenson, the highest-ranked player in the field, also finished top of his group after easing past last year’s runner-up Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand 2 & 1.
Top seed Stenson will face Jonas Blixt in the last eight after his fellow Swede halved a remarkable match with 2006 champion Paul Casey that featured 17 birdies and two eagles.
The other two quarter-finals will see Frenchman Victor Dubuisson taking on Mikko Ilonen of Finland and American Ryder Cup rookie Patrick Reed up against South African George Coetzee.
“It was a bit like yesterday against Coetzee, I ran into a guy on form,” world number 18 McDowell told reporters after losing to Luiten by two holes.
”The putter abandoned me at the 11th hour ... and Joost just ripped my heart out on 15 with his birdie putt.
“I‘m very disappointed by my title defense but there is quality golf being played out there. The course is set up to be ripped apart and unless you’re shooting 64, 65, you’re going home,” said McDowell who was three-under for his round.
It looked grim for the 28-year-old Dutchman when McDowell went three up on the front nine but the only player in this week’s 16-man field who possesses a 100 percent record came storming back with five birdies in the last 10 holes.
“It’s always hard when you’re three down after eight but you just try to get back on your game and hit some good shots and luckily that happened for me today,” said Luiten, the winner of last month’s Wales Open.
There was also a hint of good fortune about the way Stenson wrapped up victory.
Thongchai chipped in from off the green for a birdie at the 16th but the Swede hit back at the next hole with his 30-yard lob wedge from the fairway nose-diving straight into the cup.
“He was putting a lot of pressure on me ... but he didn’t hit the best of approaches on 17,” said Stenson.
“I felt that if I could stick my lob wedge in there a little bit past the hole and try to spin it back it would be pretty good. It was a bonus that it went in and it was a spectacular way to finish.”
Coetzee wound up second in Stenson’s group in spite of a 2 & 1 defeat by Italian Francesco Molinari.
Casey and Blixt were involved in the best match of the day, a counter-punching slugfest that represented the golfing equivalent of a world heavyweight title fight.
The Englishman chipped in for two eagles at the 10th and 13th but he simply could not shrug off the tigerish Blixt who reeled off five birdies in the last six holes to finish all square.
The pair finished joint second in their group with three points apiece and to decide which player advanced to the quarter-finals, they went down the 19th hole and a bogey for Casey was enough to send the Swede into the last eight.
“It was a great match,” said Blixt. “I wanted it to end another way but I‘m glad to be through.”
Blixt’s group was won by Reed who was always in charge of his encounter with fellow Ryder Cup combatant Jamie Donaldson, scoring a 3 & 2 victory.
Dubuisson finished top of his group on four points despite going down 2 & 1 to European Ryder Cup team mate Stephen Gallacher.
Larrazabal also had four points in second place after brushing aside Ireland’s Shane Lowry 2 & 1.
Ilonen was another player to claim four points from three matches, two behind group winner Luiten, after defeating Frenchman Alexander Levy by one hole.
Editing by Toby Davis