McDowell enjoys his own private Woods clinic
Ulster man impressed by playing partner’s calm, precise iron play and superb putting
Graeme McDowell shakes hands with Tiger Woods after finishing the second round at Muirfield
An intimate pairing, just the two of them: Tiger and G-Mac. Abandoned by an injured Louis Oosthuizen on Thursday, the two went about their business with due diligence in yesterday’s second round and, once Tiger Woods rolled in his 71st stroke of the day on the 18th green to get right into the mix, Graeme McDowell shook his hands and murmured, “That was a clinic the last two days, that was very impressive.”
Tiger grinned. He knew it too!
For sure, Woods – with his patience, leaving the driver cover on for two days, and his putting – seemed like the player of old. It was only after he’d finished, and someone reminded him of the fact, McDowell realised he was the only one of the two who had won a Major inside the past five years.
“I hadn’t thought about it that way; maybe I should have,” responded McDowell.
Even as a fellow-competitor, McDowell could appraise and admire the world number one.
And, for the past two days, there has been a no-fuss calm about Woods as he has gone about the task of ending that drought since his last Major win (the 2008 US Open) and moving on in his quest to catch and possibly overhaul Jack Nicklaus’s record total of 18.
Woods has been stuck on 14 for five years and one month.
Maybe, just maybe, Woods – a four-time winner already this season on the US Tour – is ready to banish whatever hex has befallen him since that last Major win in Torrey Pines.
‘Very, very impressive’
The vibes are good, with McDowell observing candidly: “He was very, very impressive the last two days. He will not be far away this weekend the way he’s playing. (His) Iron play, the flight control he has in his irons; he just hits the shot that you’re supposed to hit at all times . . . . I’m not sure there’s a better iron player in the world.
“It’s incredible how well he controls his ball flight. And he’s putting exceptionally well.”
Ah yes, Tiger’s putting. In the first two rounds, Woods had no fewer than 18 one-putts.
Time and time again, from 10 and 12 feet, he sank par putts that kept him on course.
He grinded, and grinded. And, all the time, he played sensibly off the tee – hitting 21 of 28 fairways in the two days, keeping the big club in the bag – and playing conservatively to the greens, hitting 24 of 36 in regulation. Grinding golf!
“I had to double check with Joe (LaCava), his caddie, that the driver head cover actually had a driver underneath it, because it actually hasn’t seen the light of day, not even close.