Karl MacGinty: G-Mac gets relief from nasty bumblebee 'sting'
Graeme McDowell rarely feels entirely comfortable playing Augusta National but Mother Nature conspired to make the experience a little more fraught this year.
Bad enough to come across a deadly cottonmouth snake just off the tee at 13 on Tuesday, the Portrush native had a run-in with an extra large bumblebee on the third in yesterday's final round.
As he tried to brush the insect away, McDowell clipped his ball-marker, knocking it nearly a foot away, so a rules official advised him to replace it and dock himself a shot.
"It was clumsy so I reckoned I deserved the penalty," shrugged G-Mac, who readily pencilled a double-bogey six onto his card. Yet two holes later he was approached by Sir Michael Bonallack of the R&A and the European Tour's Chief Referee John Paramor and told he could have that shot back.
In golf's 'Book of Decisions' a penalty will not apply if the marker was accidentally moved in the act of brushing away a loose impediment, ie an insect.
"I asked Sir Michael and John if there was any chance they could stay with me for the rest of the round, as they were the only way I'd get back shots around here," joked the 35-year-old, whose closing 73 left him tied 52nd on six-over with Darren Clarke.
McDowell at least made the cut for only the third time in eight visits to Augusta and was delighted to unravel at least a couple of its mysteries, though he insists his putting style is completely at odds here.
The Ulsterman is an aggressive putter, peerless on links and traditional greens and adept at tucking away any that roll several feet by … except at Augusta, they run on for yards, not feet.
"I can't count how many I blew through the break this week," said McDowell, who said he "threw away shots like confetti" over four days. Will he change his putting style for one week of the year? Unlikely, said G-Mac.
Even if he, like Lee Trevino, is forever frustrated here, McDowell will never skip the Masters. "That'd be sacrilege," he said. "I love this place, the Masters. It just goes unrequited."
Darren Clarke appears to have acquired an aura of calm acceptance with the Ryder Cup captaincy, though he insisted working at Augusta with Dr Bob Rotella, who helped him acquire the trance-like state in which he won at the 2011 Open, also helped.
Clarke closed out with his most consistent round of the week yesterday, an even-par 72 which more accurately reflected the quality of his play than his scores for the previous 54 holes.
Though the 46-year-old insists he wishes to remain competitive on Tour, one eye is inevitably beginning to wander towards those likely to be on his European team at Hazeltine in 2016.
He was, for example, loud in his praise of playing companion Ian Poulter's exemplary play during Saturday's 67 and shrugged off any misfortune he endured during his own 77.
In that mood, Clarke could be dangerous.