(Reuters) - Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell felt emotionally drained but extremely fortunate after pulling off a Houdini-like escape for a second successive day at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Thursday.
McDowell had delivered the biggest surprise in Wednesday’s opening round when he rallied from four down after seven holes, and three down after 15, to beat American Gary Woodland one up after 19 holes.
Twenty-four hours later, he battled past Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama one up, having rallied from two down after 14 holes in a match where he never led until his clinching par at the 18th.
“Why do it the easy way when the hard way will do?” McDowell smiled as he spoke to reporters after booking his place in the third round at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona.
“I just got off to a slow start again, probably less so today. Hideki opened up three-three, so I was two down walking off the second green.
“I was quite proud of myself when I got a half on three, so I was only two down after three, as opposed to three down. But I made a bad swing on six, hit it in the right bunker there.”
Three down after six holes, McDowell then upped a few gears and recorded five birdies over the closing stretch as he overcame a solid display by the 21-year-old Japanese.
“I played really clean golf,” McDowell said of his rallying effort. “I tried to go out there today and execute my game plan and try not to give him any room, try not to make any mistakes.
“And he kind of played the same kind of golf back. He played very, very well. I made big putts on 15 and 16, especially on 16, that was a massive putt to give me the opportunity.
“I feel very fortunate again today. I’ve certainly expended all my energy and emotions the last couple of days. But thankfully it’s early in the season and I’ve plenty left in the tank.”
McDowell now faces a mouth-watering showdown with American Hunter Mahan, the 2012 champion at Dove Mountain, who was beaten by the Northern Irishman in the decisive singles match at the 2010 Ryder Cup.
“There’s a decent chance he might be out for a shade of revenge tomorrow, who knows?” grinned McDowell, who won his only major title at the 2010 U.S. Open. “It’s been a long time, a lot of water under the bridge since 2010.
“He’s a quality player. He’s got a great record around this golf course and he’s going to be a tough nut to crack.
“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.”
McDowell secured the winning Ryder Cup point for Europe at Celtic Manor in Wales four years ago, beating Mahan 3&1 in the final singles match.
With the overall score level at 13 1/2-13 1/2, McDowell sank a curling birdie putt from 12 feet on the 16th green to go two up on Mahan before securing the win with a conceded par at the 17th.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien