The Super Macs (Getty Images)
Super Macs show star quality
Whilst they may still have some way to go before living up to the Olly and Seve comparisons bestowed on them by Europe’s Captain Colin Montgomerie, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy are showing signs of forming a truly formidable partnership.
By Paul Symes, europeantour.com
Part of the reason behind the success of the Olazabal-Ballesteros axis which reaped so many rewards for Europe down the years was the fact that the two protagonists were such firm friends.
With their relaxed demeanour and good-natured banter in evidence both on and off the course, it is abundantly clear that the two Ulstermen are equally comfortable in one another’s company.
Their games also complement one another in the same way that the Spaniards did, with the ultra-consistent McDowell playing the Olazabal role to McIlroy’s Ballesteros, capable of producing moments of magic when they are needed most.
The first magical moment when their match resumed against their American opponents Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan at 1pm on Sunday afternoon was provided by Johnson, who reduced Europe’s overnight lead to two holes when he drained a 35 feet birdie putt on the eighth green. Game on.
The Europeans restored their three-hole advantage with a birdie on the 11th hole, where the interested onlookers included former European footballer of the year Ruud Gullit and a certain Tiger Woods, keen to support his American team-mates after he and partner Steve Stricker suffered a 6&5 crushing at the hands of the English duo of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
Much of the talk this week has been about the possibility of a Woods-McIlroy match-up, and the crowds were finally getting their wish – of sorts – to see the pair striding the fairways together.
After three halved holes the pairings reached the risk/reward 15th, which has lived up to its billing as a potentially pivotal hole so far this week.
With McIlroy having spurned the opportunity to put Europe four up with four to play on the 14th, his missed putt had looked like proving even more costly when McDowell tugged his drive left of the green.
But McIlroy showed his powers of recovery to leave McDowell with a birdie putt from 12 feet to halve the hole, after Johnson had produced a miraculous chip of his own.
Vice Captain Sergio Garcia clasped his hands together in prayer, and they were promptly answered as McDowell’s putt caught the right edge of the cup.
A clearly pumped-up McIlroy, with pure adrenaline now coursing through his veins, then outdrove Johnson – no slouch off the tee himself – by some 30 yards on the 16th hole.
But for once McDowell misjudged his approach shot, and when Mahan found the heart of the green and Johnson rolled in the birdie putt from 25 feet, McIlroy needed to chip in to halve the hole.
He almost did, but the ball slid by to hand the initiative back to the Americans.
Lesser characters might have crumbled, but not for nothing are these two called the ‘Super Macs’. Over the past two days the 17th hole has been both friend and foe, kind and cruel.
McIlroy’s monstrous birdie putt was the catalyst for the half point the pair garnered from their opening session fourballs match with Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar. But in the second session foursomes the Americans gained a measure of revenge, with Cink turning the tables to hole a huge birdie putt of his own – a “poisoned dart” he called it – forcing McIlroy to miss from five feet.
But today, the 17th was to prove their saviour again. Having watched Mahan’s tee shot trickle off the back of the green, McDowell – with pure ice in his veins – made even purer contact with his rescue club to put Europe within touching distance of their second point of the afternoon.
Without even waiting to see where the ball ended up, McDowell strode towards the green with the ever-excitable McIlroy trying to hitch a ride on his partner’s back.
After Johnson had failed to hole his chip from off the green, it was left to McIlroy to deliver the coup de grace. With two putts needed to halve the hole and win the match, McIlroy – with his innate sense of theatre – decided just one would be enough.
And so another dash of blue was added to the scoreboard – it certainly won’t be the last point these two deliver for Europe.