Monday 19 March 2018

Graeme McDowell hoping to defend RBC Heritage title in South Carolina

Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell

Phil Casey

Graeme McDowell will hope history repeats itself as he defends his RBC Heritage title at Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head this week.

Last year McDowell arrived in South Carolina on the back of missing the halfway cut at the Masters, but came from four shots behind in the final round before beating Webb Simpson in a play-off.

Twelve months on, the former US Open champion again suffered an early exit from the year's first major championship after rounds of 72 and 78 at Augusta National.

"Last year's win was great, but it means nothing now," McDowell said. "Now we have to treat it like another event, prepare how we always do, execute our game plan and hope things go well.

"I'm looking forward to getting back and managing the expectations of a defending champion this year. I'm aware of the pitfalls and don't want to put too much pressure on myself.

"The Hilton Head area has always been on my radar and I feel like I can win here. It's a very nice course that tests every facet of the game, and it's stood the test of time. I'm excited to be coming back."

While McDowell was off form at Augusta, three of his rivals at Hilton Head certainly were not, with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth finishing joint second, Matt Kuchar joint fifth and Kevin Stadler joint eighth.

McDowell has also been paired with first-round leader Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker in the first two rounds, while Spieth has been drawn with past and present Ryder Cup captains Davis Love and Tom Watson. Spieth's performance in the Masters lifted him from 14th to fourth in the Ryder Cup qualifying standings.

Five-time RBC Heritage champion Love returns to the event after a two-year hiatus due to injury. Love, who turned 50 on April 13, will be making his 27th career start in the tournament. He and Watson have combined for 1,301 starts on the PGA Tour, while Spieth has made just 43.

Six-time major winner Nick Faldo is also in the field to mark the 30th anniversary of his victory in 1984, while US Amateur Matt Fitzpatrick has also made the journey from Augusta to compete. The 19-year-old from Sheffield missed the cut on his Masters debut by just one shot.

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