Sport Golf

Friday 13 December 2019

McDowell hopes fall victim to Bear Trap

William S Callahan

THE infamous Bear Trap at Palm Beach Gardens snagged Graeme McDowell in its teeth at the weekend, denying the doughty Ulsterman his first top-six finish of 2010 and a golden opportunity to cement his place in the world's elite top-50.

As runaway leader Camilo Villegas, 28, held off Anthony Kim to claim his third PGA Tour victory in yesterday's final round of The Honda Classic, McDowell was left to wonder what might have been after a closing six-over par 76 sent him tumbling down the final leaderboard.

Set by Jack Nicklaus, the Bear Trap is a treacherous three-hole stretch from the par three 15th, through the par four 16th and on to the par three 17th, which thoroughly examines the credentials of title contenders at The Honda before they reach the daunting par-five finisher.

In all, the Trap cost McDowell eight shots on Saturday and Sunday. A bogey at 15 and double-bogey six at 16 during his third round 71 was followed yesterday but a five at 16 and an horrific quadruple-bogey seven after he hit two balls into the water at 17.

At least the doughty Portrush man managed to hold his composure and make par at the last as he limped home in a tie for 31st place on two-over.

Yet hopes had soared that McDowell, who started the final round at four-under, seven behind Villegas, might somehow be able to burst out of the pack and challenge the Colombian when the Ulsterman man fired an impressive brace of birdies on the opening two holes of his final round.

Yet McDowell was knocked back on his heels by a bogey six at the third, followed by further dropped shots at six, where he drove into water, and at seven, where his tee shot landed in a greenside bunker.

Though one over through nine, McDowell was still inside the top-10 as he approached his ugly date with destiny at The Bear Trap.

Justin Rose registered seven birdies in a course record-equalling 64 that ensured third place on seven-under par, one behind Kim and six behind Villegas who finished with a two-under-par round of 68.

Rory McIlroy and Harrington whetted appetites for this week's CA World Championship at Doral as they drew down the curtain on their Honda Classic campaign with some swashbuckling golf yesterday.

McIlroy and Harrington were so far out of contention as the final day dawned on Palm Beach Gardens, they could throw caution to the wind on one of the most demanding courses on the PGA Tour roster.

After an entertaining display of 'slash and burn' golf, McIlroy signed for a one-under par 69 which left him tied 40th on four-over with Harrington, who closed with a 70.

With just six rounds of stroke play and 17 holes of matchplay on his dance card this year, Harrington arrived in Florida with little thought emulating his 2005 Honda Classic defeat at nearby Mirasol.

Instead, the Dubliner needs as much golf as he can get right now to knock the rough edges of his game ahead of next month's US Masters ... so the 72 holes workout he got over four exacting days at PGA National was welcome indeed.

Harrington's traditional early-season lethargy can best be gauged by the paltry three birdies he landed in the opening three rounds here. Yet the mist lifted early yesterday as he shot three birdies in just four holes from the par five third.

All week, the Dubliner's lag-putting had been excellent, as was his chipping and bunker play, which he underlined with a great par save out of the sand at seven. Yet it was heartening to see him sink decent putts for birdie yesterday.

In all, he'd four on the card and even if Harrington dropped four shots in four holes through the turn his 'grip-it-and-rip-it' mindset yesterday was both encouraging and entertaining as this week's date with Doral's Blue Monster looms.

McIlroy certainly didn't hang about as he and American playing companion Chris Stroud zipping around in three hours and 15 minutes in the fourth group out yesterday morning.

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