Graeme McDowell avoids Houston to save himself for the Masters
Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke the only Irish players in Texas ahead of Augusta
Graeme McDowell in action at the Valero Texas Open. The former US Open winner has made the cut just twice in seven appearances at the Masters. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
One place no player wants to arrive to with an injury is Augusta National, with its demands on shot-making but also for its undulating terrain: which is why Graeme McDowell resisted the temptation to add this week’s Shell Houston Open to his schedule, preferring instead to use the time to receive further treatment on his injured peroneal tendon.
McDowell’s tendonitis injury, which forced him to withdraw during the first round of the Valero Texas Open, is responding to treatment and he will be fit to play in next week’s Masters at Augusta National.
Suffering from a peroneal tendon strain – which affects the lower leg and ankle area – McDowell took medical advice to rest and have treatment to the injury at his home in Orlando rather than add another tournament to his schedule, especially with the need to be in the whole of his health for the Masters where he has struggled in the past.
McDowell has made the cut only twice in seven appearances, with a best finish of tied-12th in 2012.
With McDowell staying away from the Houston Open, it means just two Irish players, Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, will be in the field which features 15 of the world’s top-30 ranked players all gearing up for the Masters.
Jimmy Walker, winner of the Texas Open and now up to 10th in the world, is part of a strong Texan contingent that also includes new world number four Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Henrik Stenson, the world number two, headlines a strong European contingent seeking to use Houston as a stepping-stone to a green jacket.
Whereas Harrington has played on the PGA Tour – where he initially used sponsors’ invitations for game-time before spectacularly winning the Honda Classic to regain full Tour card status and with it a ticket to the Masters – the route taken by Clarke had seen him play four straight weeks in South Africa.
Clarke, in his capacity as the Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, had hoped to meet informally with his US counterpart in Houston this week.
However, Love has withdrawn from the tournament so that he can undergo surgery on a troublesome toe.
The USA captain – who had not qualified for the Masters – is expected to be sidelined for up to a month.
“I have gone [entire] seasons when I have had less three-putts than that,” said the Dubliner, who, having decided not to play in the Texas Open, used much of last week to work on his putting ahead of resuming tournament play in Houston.
The Houston Open has been used as a traditional final fine-tuner by Harrington in recent years for the Masters, with a best finish of tied-eighth in 2012.
Harrington played the Texas event last year in seeking to earn a late invite to Augusta but, requiring a win, missed the cut. It marked the first time since 1999, that Harrington had failed to make the field for the Masters.
Putted poorlyShane Lowry
Lowry, who remains top of the non-member FedEx Cup standings on the PGA Tour which represents his best shot at earning a full exemption, is staying at Lake Nona this week where he plans on working with his coach Neil Manchip ahead of making the trip to Augusta for his maiden appearance in the Masters.