Donald eyes Westwood clash

Luke Donald overcame his first hurdle on the way to the match-up with Lee Westwood he’d like to see come Sunday.

Luke Donald overcame his first hurdle on the way to the match-up with Lee Westwood he’d like to see come Sunday.

Though Westwood is the biggest hurdle in the way of Donald possibly becoming the No 1 player in the world at the end of this week’s proceedings, he would still love to meet his fellow countryman and current top-ranked golfer in Sunday’s final of the Volvo World Matchplay Championship.

“I would love to play Lee,” said Donald after beating lone American in the field, Ryan Moore, 4&3 in his opening round on Thursday.

“There’s more satisfaction when you can take down the number one player in the world.”

Should Donald achieve that feat, it wouldn’t be the first time either – back in February he won the WGC-Accenture Match Play by beating then world No 1 Martin Kaymer in the final.

Not long after that, Lee Westwood retook the No 1 spot he had lost to Kaymer, and he proved equal to his top billing on Thursday, emphatically beating Dane Anders Hansen 6&5.

Westwood was pleased with wrapping up the match on the 13th.

“The less holes you can play are obviously to pay dividends down the road and down the tournament,” he said.

“You get to a point in your career where you look for places that you can gain an advantage or where you can improve.

“I wasn’t as strong as I ought to have been, but now I’m a lot more powerful. I wouldn’t say I’m a svelte marathon runner, but I’m fit for golf – powerful in all the right areas.”

Chasing his third consecutive title, Westwood would like to keep taking every chance that comes his way.

“I’d like to start finishing off tournaments like I did ten years ago – that habit of just really being patient and lingering around and sort of sticking your chin out at the right time,” he said.

“That obviously works wonders for your confidence and I started to feel it again in Korea.”

Neither Englishman is assured a spot in the final 16 yet, however, thanks to the new format. Each will face a second round match-up tomorrow – Westwood against Australian Aaron Baddeley and Donald against defending champion Ross Fisher – and should either or both lose, they could face sudden-death playoff to decide their fate.

World No 3 Martin Kaymer is also participating this week, and he grinded out a tough 3 & 1 victory against Korea’s Y.E Yang.

Northern Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell both got through their first rounds, beating South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Retief Goosen respectively. McDowell ousted Oosthuizen 3 & 1, while McIlroy had to wait till a chip-in on the last hole to beat Goosen.

“I don’t do it the easy way, that’s for sure,” said McIlroy.

“But if I go to 18 and win every time I wouldn’t mind and I’m excited about the next couple of days.”

McDowell was happy to get right back on his horse, so to speak, after last week’s disappointing capitulation at Sawgrass.

“I wouldn’t have liked a week off to think about the way I played,” said McDowell.

“I’ve had a couple of days in the gym just trying to get a little bit of life back in the legs because they went dead on me.”

Elsewhere, Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari’s match was the only one to be halved, while Spanish duo Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez both came out on top in their first rounds. Quiros beat Paul Casey 3 & 1and Jimenez whipped Masters champion Charl Schwartzel 6&5.

Because the new format sees the 24 players split into eight groups of three, Schwartzel, and indeed all of Thursday’s losers, could still go through to the last 16 from the first two rounds of round robin competition. All of Thursday’s participants play another match on Friday, while those golfers yet to play their first match will play two.