European Tour

McDowell turns on the style

Graeme McDowell (AFP)
Graeme McDowell (AFP)

Ash - Graeme McDowell has said he was eyeing more major success after the increasingly "focused" Northern Irishman made a winning start to the defence of his World Match Play title on Wednesday.

McDowell, who came from three down to beat Jordan Spieth 2 and 1 in the opening singles match of Europe's Ryder Cup win over the United States at Gleneagles last month, was again out first at the London Golf Club in Kent.

But his latest match did not cause anything like as many problems for McDowell, who saw off-in form Frenchman Alexander Levy, the winner of the rain-shortened Portugal Masters last weekend, 3 and 2.

Four birdies in the first six holes gave McDowell a comfortable lead which he never looked like surrendering, despite Levy keeping the match alive with a birdie of his own on the 13th hole.

McDowell retained his French Open title earlier this season and won all three of his matches at Scotland's Gleneagles course.

However, the 2010 US Open champion said the past few years had not seen him as focused on golf after he got married last year and became a father for the first time in August.

"I think you're seeing a turnaround in my commitment level to the game," said the 35-year-old McDowell.

"For two years I haven't been as focused, but for all the right reasons. Getting married and having a baby are special times in the life of anyone," added the Northern Irishman.

"But I genuinely believe I can work harder than I have been and I think I've turned a corner in that regard. I realise that I want to win more majors and more tournaments around the world and I'm more focused now than I have been in a long time."

McDowell's Ryder Cup partner Victor Dubuisson also prevailed over Spain's Pablo Larrazabal at The London Club but there were defeats for Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher, who also played in the victorious European team, while Henrik Stenson halved his match with George Coetzee.

Patrick Reed of the United States, unbeaten on his Ryder Cup debut, went down 2 and 1 to Sweden's Jonas Blixt while Thailand's Tongchai Jaidee, last year's runner-up, beat Italy's Francesco Molinari by two holes.

But Wednesday's losers can still qualify for Saturday's quarter-finals as they each have two more group matches to come before the knockout phase, with the top two each of the four groups advancing to the last eight.

Results from the first day of the European Tour World Match Play Championship at the London Golf Club, Kent, England, on Wednesday:

Graeme McDowell (NIR) bt Alexander Levy (FRA) 3 and 2
Henrik Stenson (SWE) halved with George Coetzee (RSA)
Thongchai Jaidee (THA) bt Francesco Molinari (ITA) 2 up
Paul Casey (ENG) bt Jamie Donaldson (WAL) 2 and 1
Joost Luiten (NED) bt Mikko Ilonen (FIN) 1 up
Jonas Blixt (SWE) bt Patrick Reed (USA) 2 and 1
Victor Dubuisson (FRA) bt Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 3 and 2
Shane Lowry (IRL) bt Stephen Gallacher (SCO) 3 and 2

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