McDowell returns to form on Day 1 at Firestone

By Will GrayAugust 6, 2015, 11:30 pm

AKRON, Ohio – This is a man with which we are familiar.

This is Graeme McDowell, carving his golf ball at will and walking with purpose after it. Steely-eyed and focused on the course, but quickly cracking a smile once the final putt is holed.

This is a man we once knew well, but one who hasn’t been around for quite some time. Well, he finally resurfaced during the opening round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

McDowell once again made a difficult game seem easy Thursday at Firestone Country Club, shooting a 4-under 66 to share second place, one shot behind Danny Lee. The score matched his lowest of the season on the PGA Tour and marked a rare bright spot in what has been a disappointing year for the former U.S. Open champion.

McDowell has slipped to No. 60 in the world rankings, and his best result of the season – a T-3 finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in November – also serves as his only top-25 finish in the last year. At No. 159 in the FedEx Cup points race, he is sandwiched between Mark Hubbard and Chez Reavie in the standings and would not currently qualify for the playoffs.

And while Firestone is not the type of track where one typically finds his game, McDowell did just that in an opening round where he needed only 22 putts.

“I like this version of me today,” McDowell said. “It’s been a rough year, no doubt about it. Definitely been some time for reflection and some questions being asked of myself. But I think we all experience these things in everything we do. It’s how you come out the other side, really.”

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The Ulsterman had missed three of his last four cuts entering this week, and said he has been facing “technical issues” all year. Difficulty flighting the ball, trouble finding the fairway and holing putts. But ultimately, he determined that his biggest struggle has been between the ears.

“Everything’s just added up in the sort of gnawing away at that confidence and belief, and we all know that this game is about confidence and belief,” he said. “You look at a run of play like Jordan (Spieth)’s got himself on, momentum and belief is everything in this game. I’ve had none of the above this year, so it’s been hard.”

While McDowell has had plenty of time to pinpoint the swing glitches that have led to his slide from the leaderboard, he is also both thoughtful and contemplative. So as rough weeks stretched into poor months and began to define his season, he started to ask himself some difficult questions.

“I think probably the hardest question was, ‘Do I still kind of want to grind and be out here? Do I still want this?’” he said. “I mean, yes. It was an easy answer, yeah, I do want it. If this all went away, I’d miss it very badly. So when you answer that question positively, then you’ve got to start kind of answering all the other questions.”

McDowell is certainly not the first or last player to fall into a downward spiral. Former Ryder Cup teammate Lee Westwood famously dropped outside the top 200 in the world before returning to form and reaching No. 1, and he empathized with McDowell’s recent plight.

“Golf’s like that, you know. Sometimes you’ve got it, and other times you haven’t. It goes in fits and starts,” Westwood said. “Graeme’s game is a bit like that. When he finds the key, he’s red-hot and world-class. And then other times, obviously he struggles like the rest of us.”

There was no struggle for McDowell during the opening round, where he birdied four of his first seven holes and never looked back. While this is not a course where he has had much past success, he did finish T-8 a year ago – “I kind of cracked this nut last year for the first time,” he said – and hopes to build upon the momentum of his opener.

McDowell has come a long way from the man who lifted the U.S. Open trophy at Pebble Beach five summers ago. Having just turned 36, he is married with a daughter, Vale, who will turn 1 later this month.

His perspective has shifted, but he hopes to soon align those newfound priorities with some on-course success.

“I want to be back to the business end of things, where it gives you the happy feelings,” he said. “When I have my little kid run out onto the 72nd green, that’s what I want. That’s what the new me wants.”

While one round a transformation does not make, for at least one afternoon the new McDowell bore a pretty strong resemblance to the guy we used to know.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.