Graeme McDowell is used to being "beaten up" by Rory McIlroy in practice, but now they are going to meet for real for the first time in the round of 16 at the Volvo World Match Play Championship on Saturday.
McDowell topped his four-man group at Finca Cortesin on Friday when he followed up his win over British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen with a last-green victory against Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas.
2011 VOLVO WORLD MATCH PLAY
The 2011 edition of the Volvo World Match Play boasts a new 24-man field and a new springtime date.
His Ryder Cup partner McIlroy would have avoided him -- at least for the time being -- if he had defeated Nicolas Colsaerts and topped his own group.
But by losing 3&2 to the Belgian, the 22-year-old McIlroy, who blew the Masters with an 80 last month, goes instantly into a clash with McDowell, who on Sunday shot 79 to crash from first to 33rd in the Players Championship. They are ranked fifth and sixth in the world.
"He beats the crap out of me every time we play together,” said McDowell. "But this is the Northern Ireland match play championship and I'm hoping it's going to be different. It's the Volvo World Match Play and the pressure is on.
"I am sure he will expect to beat me, but it will be a great game and I am excited about it,” he added. "He is a fabulous player, so talented. This course is all about driving the ball and he is pretty good at that. It's hard to play against a close friend, but you've got to leave your friendship on the sidelines. I stopped playing him because he's too good. I'm more of an observer and he just tends to beat me up."
McIlroy, though, expects a difficult match.
"He's not going to give me anything,” he said of McDowell. "I'll just try and treat it like I'm playing anyone else. I'm here to try to win a tournament and I need to get through him -- that's the No. 1 thing on my mind."
There is another all-Ryder Cup clash for a place in the Saturday afternoon quarterfinals -- world No. 1 Lee Westwood against 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship winner Ian Poulter.
Westwood was in dazzling form for the second day running on Friday, going 7 under par in beating Australian Aaron Baddeley 4&3.
"I've carried on from where I left off in Indonesia and Korea," said Westwood, who is now seeking his third successive victory. "I will try to keep that going, but match play is different -- you can play well and lose."
Poulter has shown that under the tournament's new format, it is also possible to come through the group stages and into the knockout rounds without winning. He halved with Scotland’s Paul Lawrie just as he had with Italian Francesco Molinari, but progressed because Molinari then ended Lawrie’s hopes.
Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer, both of whom could take the No. 1 spot off Westwood this weekend, had their second victories on Friday.
Donald, who beat the German in the WGC-Accenture Match Play final in Arizona three months ago, overcame defending Volvo champion Ross Fisher 3&1, but Fisher also went through after an astonishing win over Ryan Moore earlier in the day. Moore went 4 up on the outward half and was still three ahead with four to play, but Fisher won them all.
Donald next plays Sweden’s Johan Edfors and Fisher is up against Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
Kaymer, meanwhile, has so far defeated Koreans Y.E. Yang and Noh Seung-yul. He might have had to face Paul Casey next, but the world No. 9 was the highest seed to go out after losing to Alvaro Quiros and then Soren Kjeldsen.
The format might need looking at again. In five of the eight groups, it was known who was going through to the knockout stages before they played the second of their three pool games.
"It's a little strange when you approach a match and you know you don't have to win it to still progress," said Donald.
There was, however, the first three-man playoff in the event’s history. That was because Schwartzel, Edfors and Miguel Angel Jimenez all won one game and lost one in their pool. Jimenez went out when he bogeyed the first extra hole and Schwartzel topped the group when Edfors bogeyed the next.
Friday morning results:
Ian Poulter halved with Paul Lawrie
Johan Edfors beat Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2&1
Alvaro Quiros beat Soren Kjeldsen, 5&4
Nicolas Colsaerts beat Retief Goosen, 1-up
Jhonattan Vegas beat Louis Oosthuizen, 1-up
Seung-yul Noh beat Y.E. Yang, 2&1
Ross Fisher beat Ryan Moore, 1-up
Aaron Baddeley beat Anders Hansen, 1-up
Friday afternoon results:
Francesco Molinari beat Paul Lawrie, 3&2
Charl Schwartzel beat Johan Edfors, 5&4
Soren Kjeldsen beat Paul Casey, 1-up
Nicolas Colsaerts beat Rory McIlroy, 3&2
Graeme McDowell beat Jhonattan Vegas, 1-up
Martin Kaymer beat Seung-yul Noh, 2&1
Luke Donald beat Ross Fisher, 3&1
Lee Westwood beat Aaron Baddeley, 4&3