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McDowells ball striking set up big year

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Graeme McDowell arrives in Hawaii looking like the best clutch putter in golf.

Is there anyone else you want over a putt that really matters right now?

Take a closer look, and you might decide there isn’t anyone else you want over an approach shot that matters.

McDowell’s ability to hole so many par-saving putts to win the U.S. Open, his putt to help clinch the Ryder Cup and his dramatic putts to beat Tiger Woods at the Chevron World Challenge have given him his reputation as a clutch putter.

When I asked Ian Poulter a few weeks ago about McDowell’s putting, he made a point of saying McDowell’s improved ball striking is even more impressive. Poulter said that while McDowell’s definitely a formidable putter, what he’s really noticed is that McDowell gives himself more chances to make putts that matter.

Check out McDowell’s stats, and you’ll see Poulter’s insight is backed by the numbers.

McDowell went through a bit of a slump in his ball striking in ’06 and ’07, failing to rank among the top 100 in Europe in hitting greens in regulation. He was third in hitting greens in regulation on the European Tour last year. He also was 16th in hitting fairways while ranking among the middle-of-the-pack in driving distance (76th, 286 yards per drive). That makes him a pretty good total driver.

“Graeme’s putting it all together,” Poulter said.

News that McDowell's left Callaway to sign with Srixon and will play Srixon irons and Cleveland wedges and Srixon balls will add scrutiny to McDowell's ball striking at year's start. See our Leading Edge Blog for Srixon details.