Graeme McDowell has good timing. He is the newest member of RBC’s (the Royal Bank of Canada) stable of pro golfers. The Heritage tournament at Harbor Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC has been sponsored by RBC since last year. McDowell held on to win on a difficult and windy day in a playoff against Webb Simpson. On twitter McDowell said of his win,
The win was McDowell’s first on the PGA Tour since his 2010 US Open victory at Pebble Beach. And as he alluded to, it’s his first win as a member of the PGA Tour.
G-MAC moved to 8th in the world ranking. A testament to his consistency considering this was his first official win of ANY kind since the Andalucia Masters on the European Tour in October of 2010. McDowell has established himself as a premier player on the international golf stage. It’s actually quite surprising that he hasn’t won since 2010.
On a day that saw high scores caused by high winds, it was a recipe for success for McDowell. Much like the final round of the ’10 US Open, Sunday’s final round of The Heritage became a war of attrition. 54-hole leader Charley Hoffman struggled to a 78 in the wind and rinsed his ball on the 14th hole. Eventual runner-up Webb Simpson fired an even-par 71. The lowest rounds of the day were fired by McDowell, Luke Donald and Russell Henley, each with a two-under par 69.
McDowell’s win was set up by his scrambling. In 2012 on the PGA Tour, G-MAC ranked 177th in scrambling. McDowell rededicated himself to improving his short game in the offseason and is currently first on Tour in scrambling. In fact, McDowell has missed 138 greens thus far in 2013, he has saved par 100 times (don’t get your calculator out, I already did the math, it’s 72.5%). McDowell’s improved short game was on full display when his tee shot on the par-3 17th rolled over the back of the green. From below the level of the green McDowell pitched to about three feet and made the putt for par.
The same scrambling was not quite as sharp on the 18th green. After his approach again rolled off the back of the green, G-MAC gave his putt from the fringe a run, missing on the right edge but running five or six feet passed. He missed the ensuing par putt and that bogey made room for Webb Simpson in the playoff. As a side note, this was a playoff between two of the last three US Open champions; McDowell in ’10 and Simpson in ’12.
On the first playoff hole McDowell made sure he would not need to rely on his new-found scrambling abilities by sticking his approach to 15 feet. Simpson missed the green right and ran his birdie bid about eight feet by the hole, a result of a wind gust as the ball passed the hole. McDowell then lagged his putt (a nice way of saying he left it short) and tapped in for par. Simpson missed his par bid on the right and G-MAC was the champion.
As they shook hands, McDowell demonstrated why he is one of the most well-like players on tour when he told Simpson, “You hit a better putt than that.” It’s always a bit awkward when a putt is missed to give victory to another player, and McDowell’s expression showed that. However, he certainly earned this win with his survival of treacherous conditions Sunday.
If you read the previous post on this blog you saw my review of Graeme McDowell’s new restaurant in Orlando, Nona Blue Tavern. Personally, I think it’s no coincidence that I ate lunch at Nona Blue Friday and G-MAC shot 67 to vault into contention and ultimately pull out the win. But I digress. McDowell announced that the bar at Nona Blue would be open until there were no more customers there. In fact, McDowell and his entourage made their way back to Orlando to celebrate at Nona Blue Sunday night. Considering the initial success of his restaurant, his most recent victory and his recent engagement to fiancée Kristen Stape;
it’s safe to say that it’s good to be G-Mac.