McDowell not worried by his inconsistency so far this season
Blowing hot, cold and missing cuts but up to sixth in the world after latest victory
Graeme McDowell during the final round of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
At one time, there was a television advertisement campaign based around Phil Mickelson’s propensity to surprise. “What will Phil do next?” was the marketing twist behind the commercial for Ford cars and, in a sense, Graeme McDowell has become a rather unlikely modern-day equivalent of the old Lefty-inspired unpredictability with the golf club in hand.
McDowell’s game is either very hot or very cold. He is either winning, or missing cuts. The hot and cold nature of it all might bring a bit of frustration but there is something exhilarating at the same time in watching a player shed the Mr Consistency image, that of a grinder, and replace such trustworthiness with the ability to close the deal when in the mood.
And, on that win front, only Tiger Woods has excelled more often than McDowell in 2013: Woods, the world number one, has won four times; McDowell, now up to world number six after his French Open success, has won three times worldwide this season.
“I’ve missed a lot of cuts this year and my game has looked inconsistent but really hasn’t felt that inconsistent. It just, when I’ve gone off the boil, it has not been massively off the boil. It’s just been small fractions here and there, missing cuts by one and two,” said McDowell, whose improved short game – an area he concentrated on over the last winter break – has been noticeable.
McDowell’s three wins so far this season, in the Heritage Classic at Hilton Head on the US Tour and in the Volvo World Matchplay in Bulgaria and the French Open in Paris on the European Tour, have no doubt only served to make his desire to add another Major title to his 2010 US Open win all the stronger.
It is indicative of McDowell’s dramatic swings in form that his three tour wins this season have come against missed cuts in the two opening Majors of the season, the US Masters and the US Open.
What will McDowell do next?
McDowell has chosen to miss out on this week’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, claiming the course was “a little too wide open off the tee and a little one-dimensional”. The Northern Irishman – who moved to second on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with his French Open success – has decided to do preparatory work for next week’s British Open by instead visiting Muirfield.
His comments about the Scottish Open “losing its prestige” haven’t gone down well with his Ryder Cup colleague Paul Lawrie, who claimed; “Everyone is entitled to their opinions but they were very poor . . . he should know better.” McDowell, though, has intimated he will consider playing in the event next year when the tournament moves to Royal Aberdeen.
For now, McDowell – who has proven his bouncebackability this season, his three wins (Heritage Classic, Volvo World Matchplay and French Open) all coming after he had missed the cut the previous week (US Masters, The Players and Irish Open respectively) – will attempt to maintain the momentum from Paris and bring it on to Muirfield, a course he has yet to play. He was still an amateur when the British Open was last held there in 2002.
McDowell and McIlroy have chosen to take the alternative route to Muirfield, bypassing the Scottish Open. Still, there is a very strong Irish contingent at Castle Stuart this week: Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, both past winners of the Claret Jug, will seek to rediscover some form there ahead of the British Open and are joined by Shane Lowry, Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Paul McGinley, David Higgins and Gareth Maybin.
Of the 10-strong contingent, Harrington, Clarke, Lowry and Maybin are all due to head on to Muirfield next week. For the rest, the Scottish Open represents the last opportunity to claim a spot in the field, with one place reserved for the winner of the tournament if not already exempted.
Whilst McDowell and McIlroy will undergo their own missions to Muirfield, Clarke has adopted a different approach: “It’s the ideal way to prepare (for the British Open) . . . it’s just the sort of intense competition I need to get into the right physical and mental shape to tackle the Open,” he said.
A further 18 players were yesterday confirmed for Muirfield: the five players off the Race to Dubai exemptions order of merit were Richard Sterne, Brett Rumford, Mikko Ilonen, Thomas Bjorn and Marc Warren; the five players off the FedEx Cup rankings were Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley, Russell Henley, Jimmy Walker and Harris English; and the eight players not already exempt off the world rankings were Jonas Blixt, Martin Laird, Fredrik Jacobson, Marc Leishman, Graham DeLaet, Kyle Stanley, Chris Wood and Ken Duke.