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McIlroy's tee shot ends up in swimming pool during heavy defeat to Poulter while Lowry also loses in opener

The Holywood man slumped to a comprehensive 6&5 defeat.

Updated Mar 24th 2021, 6:06 PM

RORY MCILROY’S DECISION to add Pete Cowen to his coaching team failed to pay instant dividends as he slumped to a 6&5 defeat to Ian Poulter in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play today.

match-play-golf Day to forget: Rory McIlroy. Source: AP/PA Images

And it was also a difficult day for Shane Lowry as he lost 4&2 to American Ryan Palmer in his opening group match in Austin in Texas.

match-play-golf Ireland's Shane Lowry and American golfer Ryan Palmer. Source: David J. Phillip

McIlroy’s difficulties in his Group 11 match begin early as Poulter made the ideal start with a birdie on the first and won the fourth and fifth with pars. McIlroy’s drive on the latter hole went out of bounds and finished up in a swimming pool.

McIlroy got back to one down with the aid of a superb birdie on the eighth, but Poulter won the next five holes in a row and McIlroy’s miserable day was summed up when he chipped across the green and into the water on the 13th.

With the 64-man field split into 16 groups of four at Austin Country Club, McIlroy could still qualify for the knockout stages of an event he won in 2015.

But, given the manner of his performance on day one, it looks unlikely that the four-time major winner will be able to turn his game around sufficiently to beat Cameron Smith and Lanto Griffin, while Poulter knows wins over the same players will secure his place in the last 16.

Lowry’s match was a closer affair in Group 3. A birdie by Palmer on the third edged him ahead but then Lowry hit back with some good form. He strung together three birdies in succession between the 5th and 7th holes, the first two of those matched by Palmer but the last on a par-three was enough to tie the match.

Palmer picked up another shot on the 9th to reach the turn one up and then he made a significant burst with birdies on the 12th and 13th. Lowry’s back nine was solid with a run of pars but he could not chip away at the defict and it was Palmer’s birdie on the par-five 16th which sealed his 4&2 success.

The other match in this group finished one up in favour of Jon Rahm against Sebastian Munoz with Lowry meeting Rahm tomorrow afternoon.

match-play-golf Ian Poulter watches his shot off the fifth tee. Source: David J. Phillip

Asked about his comprehensive victory, Poulter said: “I’m not sure it was easy, to be honest. I mean, you’re playing Rory and it was apparent when you’re one up after being three up that this is not going to be an easy match.

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“And when he’s kind of gifted me one on 10, you would expect him to have a half a chance to chip that in, you’re not expecting him to not get up and down.

“Then I’ve hit a great shot into 11 and that’s not an easy pin for him when he’s moving the ball right to left. I could play my cut in there nicely and I just kept him under pressure.

“But I wanted to keep the foot down because it’s too easy to let him get back in the game like he did and then he takes control of the match.”

McIlroy has previously sought Cowen’s input on an informal basis, including at the Players Championship earlier this month, but only when long-time coach Michael Bannon has not been at a tournament.

The 31-year-old Northern Irishman missed the cut in defence of his title at TPC Sawgrass after rounds of 79 and 75 and admitted that his swing had suffered after trying to add more length to his game, partly influenced by Bryson DeChambeau’s dominant US Open triumph.

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