Graeme McDowell says mentally he needs another long break

Ulsterman was four under through 12 holes, trailing Tiger Woods and Zach Johnson by four strokes

Tiger Woods watches his chip shot on the fifth hole during yesterday’s second round of the World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in California. Photograph: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Tiger Woods watches his chip shot on the fifth hole during yesterday’s second round of the World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in California. Photograph: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Fri, Dec 6, 2013, 22:53

Graeme McDowell will pack away his clubs – at least competitively – after tomorrow’s final round of the World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club for a long winter break.

The Northern Irishman, defending his title in the Tiger Woods-hosted tournament which brings the curtain down on the season for him and everyone else in the 18-man field, plans to take a two-month break and doesn’t intend on resuming tournament play until the Pebble Beach pro-am next February.

Although he took a five-week break off in late-September into October after his wedding, McDowell confessed of the reasoning behind another long lay-off: “Mentally, I just need the break. I’ve got a lot of work to do on my game, so I’m looking forward to the break from a physical point of view,” he admitted.

“I’m not driving it as good this year as I have last year. My driving is on a little bit of a downward curve, which is part of what I’m trying to address this off-season. I’m not short (off the tee) but . . . I’m not long enough . . . you’ve got to look at the Zach Johnsons and these guys and how they get it done.

“These guys won Majors, these guys could be the number one players, so I’ve got to look at it that way rather than trying to make myself into (a bomber). I’m never going to make myself into a Rory (McIlroy) or Dustin (Johnson) at this point in my life. My best days are gone (as far as adding distance).”

‘Reinvent myself’
He added: “I need to drive the ball better than I am right now, but I don’t need to reinvent myself. I need to get a little fitter and a little stronger, yeah, but not as a detriment to my iron play and my wedge play, my good stuff.”

Indeed, part of McDowell’s off-season, apart from working on his game, will be spent assessing how his schedule will pan out for next year. With that in mind, McDowell intends to look at the schedules taken by players like Furyk and Johnson, who have similar games. “I look at what they do, because I’m still learning about the PGA Tour. There’s events that I still have not played: Torrey Pines, Memorial. Quail Hollow I haven’t played since ‘06.”

McDowell was four under on his round (and the tournament) through 12 holes of his second round, which left him trailing Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods by four strokes. Matt Kuchar also remained in the hunt, while former US Masters champion Bubba Watson was five-under on his round through six holes before stumbling with a bogey-double bogey run on the seventh and eighth holes.

McDowell’s birdies on the front nine came on the fifth and sixth as he turned in 34 strokes and he claimed further birdies on the 10th and 11th to move to four-under for the tournament, but his fellow-Ulsterman Rory McIlroy was finding life more difficult. McIlroy was one-over on his round through 10 holes (and two-over for the tournament) with a double-bogey six on the fourth proving particularly costly and then suffered back to back bogeys on the 12th and 13th after a birdie on the 11th to fall further down the leaderboard.

Woods found his form with five birdies on the front nine to move within two strokes of Johnson as he turned into the back nine and continued that momentum into the homeward run with a birdies on the 10th and 11th to join Johnson as co-leader on eight under in his quest for a sixth win in the tournament.