Thursday 22 March 2018

McDowell looking to hit form at the Heritage

Karl MacGinty

Missing the cut at Bay Hill and the US Masters wasn't much fun for Graeme McDowell - but it still should give the Portrush ace a cheering sense of deja vu.

McDowell also failed to make the weekend at Arnie Palmer's event and Augusta National last year, but he slowly built momentum through the month of May and then exploded into the hottest form of his career.

As he embarks today on a whirlwind run of seven tournaments in the nine weeks leading up to his US Open defence at Congressional in June, McDowell admits he's "excited".

The 31-year-old is relishing the prospect of teeing it up with Ernie Els and his Lake Nona neighbour -- and good pal -- Ian Poulter this morning in the first round of the Heritage at Hilton Head.

"I love this course," said McDowell, adding: "It should be a good group with Ernie and Ian, while this week has a great buzz about it."

Accenture Match Play World champion Luke Donald is the obvious form choice this week, with four top-five finishes in five starts this season (including a tie for fourth at the Masters).

England's world No 3 thrives at Harbour Town and finished in the top three on his last two visits to the Pete Dye 'links', where precision trumps power.


That should also suit McDowell, who made the cut in one of only two previous appearances here.

If his season follows the same pattern as last year, he'll need a week or three more to get to his peak. A top-10 finish could be on the cards.

After Heritage, McDowell plays the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, followed by a week off, then the Players at Sawgrass, the Volvo Match Play in Spain, the BMW PGA at Wentworth, his Welsh Open defence at Celtic Manor and he then takes a week off before the US Open.

Meanwhile, World No 2 Lee Westwood will have to overcome jetlag and putting problems if he is to mark his 38th birthday on Sunday with the Indonesian Masters title.

The Englishman is the standout name at the $750,000 Asian Tour event and is favourite to win his first title since he claimed the US PGA Tour St Jude Classic in June.

"It will be nice to win because my birthday is on Sunday but it will be difficult as there are a lot of strong players out here," Westwood said.

Westwood, who held the number one ranking for 17 weeks until he was displaced by Germany's Martin Kaymer in February, is aware that he needs to improve his game on the greens if he is to win in Indonesia.

"I've been playing okay but I didn't have many great results.

"I played well in the Masters but didn't putt very well," Westwood said of his tied 11th place finish at the year's first major at Augusta earlier this month.

"I had other few decent results but nothing too spectacular. I'm looking to have that one week where everything comes together."

The Heritage,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 9.30pm

Irish Independent

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