World Matchplay win shows Graeme McDowell to be in the form of his life

Second win of the season promises a summer of content for world number 7

Tue, May 21, 2013, 02:00

The ability to bounce back from adversity is the best testament to a player’s psyche and, for sure, Graeme McDowell – who has twice responded to missed cuts by going out and winning the following week – is living proof of his own mental fortitude. G-Mac’s second win of the season, in the Volvo World Matchplay Championship, has lifted him to seventh in the latest world rankings and provided further evidence of his own assessment that he is in “the form of my life”.

The Ulsterman – who last month captured the Heritage Classic on the US Tour a week after missing the cut at the Masters – has leapfrogged up the world rankings in recent weeks. Indeed, only three players (Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Brandt Snedeker) have accumulated more world ranking points so far this year and McDowell now believes he is a better player than when he won his breakthrough Major in the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach.

“I feel like I’m a substantially better player than I was three years ago, all around really. I’ve learned a lot from this process than I’ve gone through the last two and a half years, winning the US Open, getting comfortable with deserving that US Open, getting comfortable with the player that I was trying to become and was, at that point, acclimatising myself to being in the top 10, top 20, top 30 in the world.

“Winning tournaments, (using) new equipment; just really, (achieving) a new status in the game. You thrust yourself into that kind of upper echelons of Major champions and good players . . . I’ve solidified my place in the top 20 in the world with some good play, (and) some good learning experiences with my short game which I’m continuing to improve.”

McDowell is part of an 11-strong Irish contingent competing in the European Tour’s flagship event, but three-time Major champion Pádraig Harrington – on the back of a three-week stint in the US – has decided not to play in the event. He is expected to reappear on tour for the St Jude Classic, the week ahead of next month’s US Open at Merion.

Again contended
For McDowell, that US Open is very much on his agenda. Having won at Pebble Beach, he again contended in the Major last year at the Olympic Club where he came up a shot shy of winner Webb Simpson.

“I’ve got one more event (the BMW PGA) before the US Open. You could say, I’m in the form of my life going into an event which certainly my record kind of speaks for itself. But you kind of get ahead of yourself in this game ever, ever, ever . . . the second that you think you’ve got it nailed, it kicks you hard.

“I’m starting to realise that, and I’ve learned to have no more major expectations. I think that’s why I’m feeling so comfortable on the golf course.”

The fact of the matter is that McDowell has improved immensely on his short game (he is number one in scrambling on the US Tour’s statistics) and has also improved on his fitness, if not quite ready to be called a gym rat.

“I’m the number one scramble on the PGA Tour this year which has been a telling stat. Last year, I’ll be the first to admit, my short game was not good, (that it) cost me probably the US Open. If I had been sharper around the greens, I would have had a better chance than I did in the end. Really, (now) just feeling more comfortable in my own skin out there winning tournaments.”

McDowell – who heads into this week’s BMW PGA on top of the Race to Dubai standings – has referred to his form as “streaky,” given that he has three missed cuts so far this season to go with two wins in the past five weeks. “I’m certainly starting to believe in my game a little bit more, no doubt about it. I think, as players, we are always searching for that consistency and that belief. I’m excited, very excited, about the way I’m playing and certainly what the summer holds from here.”

As for the goal of topping the European Tour’s money list? “Yeah, (topping) the money list would be extremely special . . . (but) these are early days, with three Major championships to come and a couple of WGCs.”

The West Course at Wentworth hasn’t, however, proved to be a happy hunting ground for McDowell with a best finish of tied-13th in 2009. He has missed the cut there for the past two seasons. This time perhaps? “I’ll prepare my best for Wentworth and prepare my best for the US Open and get ready for a great summer hopefully,” said McDowell.