McDowell hangs tough to put himself in the picture

After string of missed cuts, McDowell makes it into the weekend

 Graeme McDowell   in action   during the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet. Photograph:  Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell in action during the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

 

There’s always been a bit of the fighting terrier in Graeme McDowell, a capacity to grind it out even when the weight of the world seemed to be pulling against him. It’s a trait that has seen him through thick and thin, good days and bad, and it was again apparent in how he fought his way back into the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open here at Mount Juliet.

G-Mac signed for a second round 69, reaching the midpoint on three-under-par 141 and, for the first time in an age, making it into the weekend a tournament. Remarkably, it was McDowell’s first round in the 60s since the third round of the Valero Texas Open back at the start of April, following which he has endured a pretty tough time in a succession of missed cuts.

This time, McDowell exhibited some of his old fight, boosted by a couple of quick-fire birdies from three feet at his opening two holes to get momentum straightaway which he carried through to the finish in a bogey-free round.

The putter, an Odyssey No 7 worked like a dream. Which is just as well, for McDowell has more of them than he needs. Last year, in realising he was down to just two of his favoured putters, he went onto eBay and bought a dozen of them as back-up and ensuring a plentiful supply going forward.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer and all that, yet McDowell’s return to the European Tour has provided a lift to his game.

“One of the things I haven’t done well the last 12 months is grind out those Friday afternoon cuts to get into the weekend to create momentum and confidence because, even from 60th position, a 65 on Sunday does so much for you. And I haven’t had the opportunity to do that because I’ve been missing all the time. It’s very hard, very hard to create and build when you’re only playing two rounds a week. I was aware that making the weekend was huge for me. Even if I don’t compete this weekend, as I move into next week, I need to continue to build and build that momentum.”

McDowell has been candid and upfront these past few days in exploring how to exit from a poor run of results, which has seen him drop to 167th in the world rankings.

As he put it, “Perhaps to someone who has been listening to this stuff, it sounds negative. It’s not negative. It’s me trying to lower my expectation levels to give myself the chance to play (well). I’ve actually been playing all right the last three or four months but I’ve been putting myself under so much pressure for no reason.

“A day like today is huge. If you look at my confidence glass, it’s been in the dishwasher and it’s dry. I need to start filling it up with some confidence and give myself that belief in myself again. Today was important, and I need more of those. One day doesn’t make anybody. I need more. I’ll go back out (in the third round), make some birdies, and get myself back in position to make a cheque on Sunday.”

McDowell identified an improvement in putting as a big sea change. “I had Clive Tucker come to me with Portrush at the weekend there and it was mainly based on putting. Clive worked with David Howell when he was probably the best putter in the world. He worked with me before I won the US Open (in 2010). My putting was the strongest part of my game. I’ve sort of lost my way a little bit. I’ve lost my belief in what I’m doing. I’ve lost my technique and I just have to get back to basics a little bit.”

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