Jason Day recovers to inflict early defeat on Graeme McDowell at WGC-Dell Match Play in Austin

Graeme McDowell watches his tee shot on the first hole
Graeme McDowell watches his tee shot on the first hole

World number two Jason Day suffered an injury scare just 15 days before the Masters after recovering from an early deficit to beat Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell in the WGC-Dell Match Play.

Day headed straight into the clubhouse for treatment after appearing to injure his lower back in the closing stages of his 3&2 victory over McDowell in their opening group match at Austin Country Club.

The 28-year-old did not speak to reporters but his coach and caddie Colin Swatton said he first noticed an issue on the 15th tee.

“He grabbed his back and said, ‘Oh, I just tweaked it,’” Swatton said in quotes reported by GolfChannel.com. “Up until that point, there was nothing. He’s been great all year. Just out of the blue. I don’t know if it was one swing or what it was.”

Day also grimaced and immediately let go of the club after pulling his tee shot on the 16th and had to back gingerly into a fairway bunker before playing his second shot.

“I’m not going to say it rubbed salt in my wound when a guy is three up with three to go and then he starts hurting and is able to limp up and win the match, but it does put a salty edge in it for me,” McDowell joked. “Go down six holes ago if you’re going.”

McDowell, who holed the winning putt at Celtic Manor in 2010, was two up after four before Day hit back by driving the green on the par-four fifth to set up a winning birdie.

Further birdies on the eighth and ninth took the US PGA champion into the lead and he doubled his advantage on the 11th when McDowell, who won the Volvo World Match Play title in 2013, found water off the tee.

Day, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, also birdied the 12th to move three up and pars thereafter were enough to seal victory, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to continue in the event.

He could forfeit today’s match with Thongchai Jaidee and then hope to beat Paul Casey tomorrow, although that would put Jaidee in pole position to win the group after his 2&1 win over Casey yesterday.

Phil Mickelson did not lose a single hole in beating Matt Fitzpatrick 5&4, while there were narrow wins for Charl Schwartzel over Danny Lee and Brandt Snedeker against Charley Hoffman.

Jason Dufner edged out Rickie Fowler 2&1 thanks to birdies on the 16th and 17th. Former Ryder Cup team-mates Sergio Garcia emerged victorious on the 18th against Lee Westwood.