Saturday 10 December 2016

McDowell keen for history to repeat itself in Mexico's Classic

Golf

Phil Casey

Published 10/11/2016 | 02:30

McDowell: “I think this time of the year is becoming very important for the PGA Tour and that’s why we continue to see more and more players playing at this time of the year.
McDowell: “I think this time of the year is becoming very important for the PGA Tour and that’s why we continue to see more and more players playing at this time of the year." Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

It's looking like a classic case of deja vu for Graeme McDowell who admits that he's disappointed to be outside of the world top 50 as he looks to defend his crown in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

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The Portrush native went into last year's event in Mexico without a top-10 finish since his opening event of the year and ranked 85th in the world, but went on to claim victory in a three-man play-off.

The former US Open champion followed that with third place in the RSM Classic to move up to 53rd in the rankings and recorded five top-10s in 2016.

However, the 37-year-old returns to Playa del Carmen just four places higher in the rankings than 12 months ago and in need of more good performances to book his place in next year's Masters.

"It was a very important victory for me at the end of last season," McDowell said. "It opened up nice doors for me and put me in some good positions in the FedEx Cup points.

"I think this time of the year is becoming very important for the PGA Tour and that's why we continue to see more and more players playing at this time of the year. It's so important they get off to a fast start with so many great players now and it being so difficult to win.

"The win last year here was very special to me on a lot of levels and of course I'd dearly love to try and repeat it this week. It was great to re-confirm to myself that when I put my mind to it I can still compete at the highest level. I suppose I'm disappointed that I haven't really kicked on in 2016 with that momentum but this year has been a funny one.

"When it's been good, it's been really good, when it's been bad I've been going home on Friday nights."

McDowell will play the first two rounds alongside Charley Hoffman and Russell Knox, who finished joint runner-up with Jason Bohn last year after McDowell birdied the first play-off hole. Former World No 1 Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Waterford's Seamus Power are also in the field.

Henrik Stenson can seal a second Race to Dubai title with victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge this week as an off-form Danny Willett tries to "find some game" at Sun City, where Pádraig Harrington will be in action.

Willett had topped the money list since winning his first Major title at the Masters in April, but was overtaken by Open champion Stenson at the end of October.

Stenson was joint second in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai as Willett could only finish 75th in the 78-man field at Sheshan International. And Willett could not take advantage of Stenson's absence from last week's Turkish Airlines Open, the 29-year-old finishing joint 68th to only reduce his deficit from 261,387 to 252,163 points.

With more than one million points on offer to the winner, a second win for 2008 champion Stenson at the Gary Player CC would give him a second Race to Dubai title in four years if Willett finishes outside the top 10. World No 2 Rory McIlroy will also be interested in the outcome as his slim hopes of a third successive Race to Dubai crown are out of his hands following his withdrawal from the Turkish Airlines Open.

If Stenson is tied seventh with one other or better, or Willett is tied second with two others or better, McIlroy will not be able to win the title even if he defends his DP World Tour Championship title.

Nedbank Golf Challenge

Live, Sky Sports 1 & 4, 9.0am

OHL Classic at Mayakoba

Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.0pm

Indo Sport

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