THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Some professional golfers will spend the upcoming offseason building their swings. Others will spend it building their brands. And plenty will spend it building a nice little groove in the living room sofa cushions while resting up during the brief respite.
Graeme McDowell is building a bar.
OK, so maybe he’s not physically installing formica or laying tile, but McDowell is the proprietor of an Orlando-based establishment called Nona Blue that will open next month. Which is really too bad. Not the part about him opening a bar, but the part about it not being open yet. Because after the boss’ World Challenge victory on Sunday, there could have been one hell of a celebration.
“I think traditionally it may be drinks on the house when I win a tournament,” he surmised. “Thankfully it's not open yet, so I'll save a few dollars this time around.”
The bar could have opened two years ago and McDowell still would have saved some cash. Prior to this week, his last victory anywhere in the world came at this tournament in 2010, the culmination of a breakthrough season that also included a U.S. Open title and the clinching putt in the Ryder Cup.
It’s not as if he completely lost his game in the time since, but for a player who made a name for himself by dramatically displaying his guile down the stretch, it was surprising to find him winless for so long.
Just ask him.
“It's been too long. It's been a hell of a two years since I sat here as a winner,” said McDowell, who won by three over Keegan Bradley. “And we all put winning kind of up on a pedestal of the ultimate goal. We like to say that it's all about the processes and going through the motions and trying to get better. But let's be honest, we all measure ourselves by the wins. I can say that now.”
While this tournament remains the ultimate conundrum – an unofficial event with official world ranking points – don’t suggest to McDowell that it doesn’t count as much as any other.
After sealing the victory, he appeared perhaps more relieved than elated, the result of so long spent trying to sneak into the winner’s circle again.
“For two years, I've been saying things like processes and trying to get better and be patient and hopefully the wins will come,” he maintained. “I got fed up with telling everybody that I'm playing well, playing well. I guess I'm relieved to get across the line and take some nice confidence into this little off period I've got coming up.”
There’s nothing little about it. After circling the globe while playing five of the last six weeks, McDowell will soon embark on a 10-week vacation, though it’s hardly as if he doesn’t have anything going on.
In addition to the bar, he just moved into a new house in the same neighborhood where Ryder Cup teammates Justin Rose and Ian Poulter also live. And just two weeks ago in Dubai, he got engaged to longtime girlfriend Kristin Stape, who was on hand for the win on Sunday.
All of which begs the question: Will the majority of the $1 million winner’s check be put toward his house, his bar or his fiancée?
“All of the above,” he said with a laugh. “Let's just say the house has been quite the draw on my resources the last couple of years and I'm looking forward to definitely throwing a little bit of this purse into finishing the house. And you never know, Christmas presents might get a little nicer.”
Ask Stape the same question and she defers to her beau.
“Oh, goodness. Who knows?” she said. “He needs to get himself a little treat, I think. He’s due. He’s always so good at getting stuff for everybody else to make sure they’re happy.”
“I might. I might,” McDowell responded. “This house has kind of been the present to myself. You know, it's the house I've always dreamt of building and Kristin’s kind of helped me do that the last couple of years and very proud of it and that's kind of been the present to myself the last couple years. But you never know. Might be an extra Christmas present in there.”
There were likely some presents being handed out somewhere on Sunday evening. Even though his bar is still a month from opening, McDowell was still buying a few rounds for friends halfway around the world.
“I always call Rathmore, my home golf course,” he said of his Northern Ireland roots. “It's a bit late there now. What is it, 11:35? It's not too early for those boys, believe me.”
Hey, it’s been two years. They’ve been thirsty for this one for a while.