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McDowell backs golf chiefs to go distance in equipment fight


Graeme McDowell. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Getty Images

Graeme McDowell. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell is backing golf's governing bodies in their war on distance gains.

Back at the scene of his 2010 US Open win for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Portrush veteran (40) welcomes the 'Distance Insights Report' from R&A and the USGA and plans to curb the "ever-increasing cycle of hitting distances".

"When it starts to affect the integrity of some of the greatest courses in the game, where you don't have a lot of real estate left to make changes, there's a problem," McDowell told Golf Channel.

"To me, when they moved the 17th tee at the Old Course, I was like, 'Is that necessary?' It's one of the most iconic tee shots in the world."

With Augusta National also making room to potentially lengthen the par-five 13th by up to 50 yards, he added: "If this continues, continues, continues, and we fast-forward into the future, it could become silly.

"I don't think we want to continue the way we are going. It really needs to stop somewhere."

Now 47th in the world following his win in the Saudi International, he hopes to take advantage of starts in World Golf Championships and Majors that he once took for granted.

"I think all those years where it's expected, maybe you don't appreciate what it is and what they are and how important they are at the time," confessed McDowell, who is joined at Pebble Beach by Seamus Power and European Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington.

Power lost his full PGA Tour card last year and plays for the first time in two months.

"You have to be patient and wait for your chances," said the West Waterford man, who will get just a handful of starts over the next few weeks.

"It's probably going to be slim pickings for me in the early part of the year, but I will get a lot of opportunities, especially in the summer."

Meanwhile, LPGA Tour stars Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow join Jonny Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin in the ISPS Handa Vic Open near Melbourne as Niall Kearney, Michael Hoey, Gavin Moynihan and Robin Dawson tee it up in the Challenge Tour's RAM Cape Town Open.

In amateur golf, Mallow's James Sugrue lies just two shots behind the leaders heading into the final round of the African Amateur Stroke Play at Leopard Creek.

The Amateur champion sits alone in third on one-under while Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty is just two shots further back after making a hole-in-one at the 12th in a 71.

"I duffed a wedge from 148 yards and had turned away in disgust when my playing partner said 'Go in'," Rafferty said. "I just saw it drop as I turned around."

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Irish Independent