McDowell hopes for fresh start, return to top 50

By Doug FergusonOctober 28, 2015, 12:45 pm

Graeme McDowell is going on nine months without a top 10 on any tour, so he is eager to get this year behind him and start all over again.

He gets to do both in a span of three weeks.

Last week in Hong Kong, this week in Turkey, and that will be the end of his European Tour season.

McDowell is No. 64 in the Race to Dubai, and barring a big finish at the Turkish Airlines Open, he will finish out of the top 50 in Europe for the first time since 2006.

Then it's off to the beach - Mayakoba in Mexico, Sea Island along the coast of Georgia.

The calendar says those are the final two events of the year on the PGA Tour, but McDowell knows better. They are part of the fall start to the new PGA Tour season, and they present a chance for him to get a head start.

He didn't play the PGA Tour last season until the Florida swing, and by then he felt miles behind.

''A big part of me wants to get the year finished,'' McDowell said Tuesday. ''But Sea Island and Mexico are going to feel like the start of 2016 to me.''

McDowell finished last year at No. 15 in the world, and he had been a fixture in the top 50 since his magical season in 2010. That was the year he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, delivered the winning point for Europe in the Ryder Cup and nearly won the Race to Dubai until he was edged out by Martin Kaymer.

This year, however, the 36-year-old struggled with the balance of being a global player and a new father.

He started at the Dubai Desert Classic and tied for ninth. That turned out to be his only top 10 this year.

''When you take your eye off the ball for just a second, you're going to get beat up,'' he said. ''I got off to a slow start and didn't play a lot of golf. ... It's amazing how quickly the confidence goes. This game is about momentum and confidence.''

McDowell slipped out of the top 50 two weeks after the U.S. Open, and he never got it back. That knocked him out of the HSBC Champions next week in Shanghai, which in effect threw him into reverse during the Race to Dubai.

Only the top 60 reach the season finale in Dubai. Only the top 10 after Dubai qualify for the bonus pool.

McDowell didn't see the point of chasing points in the Race to Dubai, which is a long shot. Instead, he wants to get an early start on a new season in America.

''I know it's not what the European Tour wants to hear,'' McDowell said. ''But if I can get some points on the board early (on the PGA Tour), maybe that will free me up to play in the desert (Middle East swing). It hasn't been a phenomenal year for me. I took some time off after the PGA Championship and I'm fresh. I'm keen to tee it up.''

He is among a growing list of international players who at least want a few PGA Tour starts before the end of the year. Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson are at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia this week. Rickie Fowler played in Las Vegas last week.

Only once in the last 10 years has McDowell played an official PGA Tour event in the fall. That was in 2011 when he went to the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island. The competition is getting stronger. The fields are deeper. And it's becoming tougher to essentially spot other players a three-month head start by waiting to play the Florida swing.

His first PGA Tour event this year was the Honda Classic. McDowell didn't break par until the first round of the Masters.

When he arrived at the U.S. Open, he talked about wrestling with motivation after getting married, having a daughter and finding time and desire to do what brought him to such a consistently high level in the first place.

McDowell decided then he didn't want his career to be defined by the 2010 season. He wants more majors, more big Ryder Cup moments.

He is enjoying the work that goes into getting his game back where he thinks it should be. He hasn't seriously contended since returning from a six-week break after the final major, though 14 of his 16 rounds have been under par. That's a start.

Even so, he most likely would need a win to get back into the top 50 by the end of the year. That would assure him a spot in the World Golf Championship at Doral, and at the Masters. And being in the top 50 is critical for players like McDowell who have membership on the two biggest tours.

''There's a real premium on playing well when you do turn up,'' McDowell said. ''My big focus in 2016 is on playing enough golf, but not too much. It's about staying sharp. I want to be on the Ryder Cup team. My main priority is getting back to where I needed to be, competing, and not scratching around at the bottom of the money list.''

With one season ending in Europe and another already having started in America, there's no time to lose.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x