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Mac eyes Masters

Portrush ace needs return to best form


Graeme McDowell. Photo: Sportsfile

Graeme McDowell. Photo: Sportsfile

Graeme McDowell. Photo: Sportsfile

Graeme McDowell has one eye on next week's Masters and another on resurrecting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

The Portrush ace (41) returns to Augusta desperately seeking form in this week's Vivint Houston Open after missing ten of 15 cuts since winning the Saudi International in February.

Those missed cuts included his defence of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic where he teed it up rather than playing the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle.

But he's upbeat about 2021 and hopeful that Dubai Duty Free can weather the Covid-19 crisis and renew as sponsors.

"I was disappointed for the Irish Open that it lost its Rolex Status and Dubai Duty Free being such a good sponsor, you can only imagine what they are going through right now," McDowell said from Houston, where he is joined by Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington, Brooks Koepka and world No 1 Dustin Johnson.

"I'm sure the numbers are shocking with regards to Dubai as a destination and a transfer hub, it's crazy. I am hoping it will all bounce back next year. We are talking about hopefully getting back to Mount Juliet with me hosting and back to what 2020 was supposed to be from an Irish Open point of view.

"Nothing is confirmed yet and a lot of things that need to happen over the next few months to get schedules back to full strength. It's very hard to get sponsor to commit without the presence of fans and the financial commitments required to put these events on.

"But hopefully we can get the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open back on track next year and back on a good spot on the calendar as a Rolex Series event."

Getting his game back to full capacity is the next test for McDowell, who knows he will give his long irons a Masters workout at 7,432-yard Memorial Park.

"Brooks Koepka had an input into it, and four of the fairways are about 260-yards to get out!" McDowell said. "Like I say, I am coming into this week feeling like my game is moving in the right direction. It would be nice getting a good head of steam up going into next week."

On his 2020 struggles, he said: "It's been a frustrating summer as I felt like I had some nice momentum going into the break and when I came out of the break I felt great, as I'd done a lot of work physically as I had lost a little bit of weight, and I was feeling good.

"But I just couldn't do a good job switching back into golf. I struggled with the atmosphere and then [caddie] Kenny tested positive. That derailed the start and I never really got any momentum going."

Set to play five of the next six weeks, he added: "Obviously one of the big goals towards the end of the year is to get myself back in that top 50 and get my Masters spot guaranteed for April.

"We'll play next week at Augusta and be back there before we know it hopefully."