Friday 23 March 2018

McDowell concedes defeat in distance battle against the big hitters

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell has waved the white flag of surrender in his battle against the golf ball bombers such as Dustin Johnson
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell has waved the white flag of surrender in his battle against the golf ball bombers such as Dustin Johnson
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

GRAEME McDowell has waved the white flag of surrender in his battle against the golf ball bombers such as Dustin Johnson.

He has won a Major while Johnson has none to date, but the 2010 US Open champion from Portrush admits to a tinge of envy when he sees Johnson routinely pounding drives of 350 yards-plus.

And though he tried hard to find a way to muscle more distance from his own drives, McDowell found that to be a futile exercise.

"I'd like to know what it feels like to hit those drives, yeah," he said.

"I was watching the coverage of Chambers Bay, the tee shot he hit on 18 was about as good a tee shot I've ever seen," he said.

"Only in my wildest dream I'm going to hit one of those. It's awesome. That's where the game is at right now, and it's fantastic. It's cool."

Unfortunately for McDowell, his physiology and mechanics rule out any chance of finding that extra 50 yards.

He has tried, and tried hard. Now it's time for acceptance of reality.

"Tried that, been there, done that, didn't like it," he said. "I've been through the process of trying to slash the driver and I can't get anything more out of it.

"I'm just back to trying to hit it in fairways again. Yeah, I'm just accepting the fact that I'm going to get to venues, and I'm going to be pretty frustrated that the big boys are hitting it 50 yards by me, but I just have to deal with that and move on."

Yesterday McDowell, level par after 36 holes, was an early starter and a fast mover up the leaderboard as he registered four birdies in the first five holes of his third round.

He came a cropper at the sixth where he got into bunker trouble and had his impetus halted by a double-bogey six.

A bounce-back birdie on seven, and another on the ninth had him out in 32, and back to four under for the tournament.

Conditions were still very favourable but McDowell struggled all day with driving accuracy, rather than driving distance, and that cost him dearly.

Two birdies on the par-three 11th and par-four 14th were undermined by bogey on ten, double-bogey seven on the 14th - bunkered again off the tee - and bogey on the 15th.

At two under for the tournament McDowell was left with a feeling of what might have been, especially after shooting eight birdies over the 18 holes.

He ideally wants perfection, or at least to come as close to it as would make him competitive in Majors again, but has to be satisfied with progress.

"It was interesting. I played lovely. I really did. I played well but I drove the ball disgusting," he said.

"I'm not really quite sure what's wrong with my driving.

"I've got the left, going left with the driver only and everything else is pretty good.

"I hit it in the trap on six and compounded the error and made double there, and I hit it in the trap on the par-five 14th, and compounded the error there.

"I left it in the bunker, just trying to be a little too greedy, and that was kind of the story of the round really, because this is the first day I've actually had the putter going at all."

McDowell's performance yesterday was something of a four steps forward, two steps backward but a strong finish today will add to his steadily growing confidence.

Self-belief was in short supply earlier in the year and now, seven months into the season, there are a few more notches in the confidence register required before McDowell is satisfied.

"I'm past the doubting phase of the process," he said. "The doubts were sort of three, four, five months ago.

"I feel like I'm starting to get to the good point of the process, which is when I start to see some scores coming together, and I'm really close to that.

"Apart from half a dozen loose drives over the last three days, you know, tee to green, my ball-striking has been really, really good, and I'm pretty happy with that."

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