PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It’s sad but true: Graeme McDowell pulled a Rory McIlroy. At least McDowell showed up this week at The Players Championship, something his compatriot from Northern Ireland did not do.
The week began with talk of how McIlroy and world No. 1 Lee Westwood opted to skip the “fifth major.” It ended with McDowell being compared with McIlroy for altogether different reasons.
McDowell mirrored McIlroy’s collapse at the Masters last month with one of his own, a final-round 79 that dropped him from contention into a tie for 33rd place, eight shots behind winner K.J Choi.
He made a 50-foot bomb for birdie on the fifth hole and seemed to be in control of his game. But he hit a wayward drive right on the sixth hole and made bogey, then found water left off the seventh tee box and made another bogey.
Another uncharacteristic move came on the par-5 ninth hole when McDowell hit his second shot well left and it landed underneath a plant. Instead of taking a drop, he took a swing, barely advanced the ball and ultimately made another bogey to turn at 2-over 38.
“At that point I just felt the life kind of drain right out of me,” McDowell said. “It’s just one of those days. Everything I tried just went wrong.”
It got worse on the back nine. He made bogey on 13 and 15 and found water on the final two holes making double-bogey 5 on the 17th and bogey on the last. He closed with four consecutive 5s on his scorecard.
“I just couldn’t seem to get any momentum,” McDowell said. “You need a little momentum out there and I couldn’t seem to read the grain. It was just a bad day at the office.”
The positive? “I feel better, a lot better. Two weeks ago I was in pieces with my golf game, and I found a little bit this week.”
That, and he beat McIlroy’s (80) collapse by a shot.