Sunday 4 December 2016

Unrequited love won't break McDowell's spirit

Published 06/04/2016 | 02:30

Graeme McDowell concentrates during a practice round for the Masters at Augusta. Photo: Chris Carlson\AP
Graeme McDowell concentrates during a practice round for the Masters at Augusta. Photo: Chris Carlson\AP

Graeme McDowell hopes that Paul McGinley's recent vote of confidence will be justified, if not at the Masters, then some time in the very near future.

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Irish Olympic golf team manager McGinley has taken careful note of McDowell's stats in relation to his game and likes what he sees.

McDowell fully agrees with that verdict. He is happy that his game is developing and goes into Augusta seeking further confirmation that his form is on an upward curve.

He does not, however, dare to dream yet that Augusta National will yield to his charms, and return the love he has for this tournament and this great golfing cathedral.

After eight appearances in the Masters it remains a case of unrequited love.

"That hasn't changed. I still love it. I'm just here with a smile on my face this week, just having some fun. I'm going to play three weeks in a row and this is probably the least of my three chances.

"I've got Hilton Head and San Antonio coming up after this one so this is the least of my chances. I'm okay with that; I'm accepting of that. I'm just playing here with an open mind this week.

"The game is in good shape. I think I've got some departments of my game that are in good shape to help me get around this golf course, one being my iron play and one being my short game.

"I feel like I'm really chipping it well and my bunker play is in good shape. Those two things are really helping me, and I'm focusing a lot harder on my putting coming into this week," said McDowell.

The 2010 US Open champion is a 13-times winner worldwide, including three PGA Tour events, the most recent being the OHL Classic in Mayakoba last November.

His Augusta form has been disappointing. McDowell has made only three cuts, with a best finish of tied-12th in 2012 and last year he finished tied-52nd.

Hope springs eternal for McDowell, and he exuded confidence as he stood in the shade of the famous big tree in front of the clubhouse where media and players mingled prior to playing a practice round with Shane Lowry yesterday.

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"I think quietly within our camp, we see big things on the horizon. We like where we're going and we like the way our stats are trending. We like the things that we're seeing, very much so," he said.

The passage of time does not diminish the special feeling that comes with the right to tee it up in the Masters, particularly for McDowell.

"You're always in awe of the place, there is an inherent respect that players have that I don't think they have for a lot of golf courses. Respect for the members, respect of the traditions and the history.

"There is not many golf courses in the world like this, maybe St Andrews, maybe Pebble (Beach) to a certain extent where you feel a bit differently, and you can feel the history of the game coursing through the trees and the people around it.

"They've maintained the tradition and the history whilst keeping the golf course up to speed with modern standards.

"It is such a smart venue from what they can do with the course, and how they can control it.

"It is fair. You can't say there is anything quirky or stupid about this place, it is what it is. It's a great test of golf and it's a great traditional tournament," he said.

McDowell's mantra for the week is 'attitude.' He spoke of an acceptance that the course does not suit his game, but has sought to shift the balance of probabilities in his favour by concentrating on the short game.

"Chipping and putting are the things I'm focusing on this year.

"Rather than becoming obsessed by the intricacies of getting from tee to green, I'm being more obsessed about in and around the greens. That's kind of my focus," he said.

Irish Independent

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