Life-changing year for McDowell
It did wonders for Graeme McDowell, too, in a way few could have imagined.
McDowell was on his way home from China a year ago when he was a last-minute alternate in the Chevron World Challenge for Woods, whose troubles were just starting. Little did McDowell know that his runner-up finish was the start of a life-changing year.
It was the first year the Chevron World Challenge awarded world ranking points. McDowell earned enough to narrowly be exempt for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which he won by one shot for his first major.
That U.S. Open victory put him on the Ryder Cup team, and McDowell delivered the biggest putt of his life on the 16th hole of Celtic Manor in October to win the decisive match for Europe.
“If I don’t finish second at the Chevron here last year, perhaps I miss the U.S. Open, and perhaps I’m not sitting here right now after having a dream season,” McDowell said Wednesday. “It’s kind of weird how small things can shape a year. And I feel very fortunate to be here last year.”
He will get back to Northern Ireland for the holidays later this month, and maybe then he will finally have a chance to reflect on a year that will be hard to top – a major champion and Ryder Cup hero.
For now, he has a few tournaments left in his dream season, starting with the one that got him started.
McDowell is part of an 18-man field that tees off Thursday at Sherwood Country Club, a tournament that used to be a Christmas bonus for the elite few that were invited to Woods’ event.
It is much stronger now, with a $5 million purse and world ranking points giving it credibility. The field is stronger than the Dubai World Championship last week that ended the European Tour season.
There are enough points that Woods has a chance to regain his No. 1 ranking from Lee Westwood, who is playing in South Africa against a tough field. He would have to win the Chevron World Challenge and have Westwood finish out of the top two to regain the No. 1 ranking.
The odds of that happening are not great based on recent history. Woods has only three top-10s this year, including a fourth-place finish in the Australian Masters last month.
He was hitting the ball better than he has all year Wednesday in the pro-am, enough to get the attention of his caddie, Steve Williams, who noticed big strides since they last played Down Under.
Woods also has stuck with the Nike putter he used in Australia, with the shaft in the heel to help him release the blade through the ball. He made it sound as though he was ditching the putter that brought him 13 majors.
“It’s permanent for this week,” he said.
Woods has not lost at his tournament since 2005, although he didn’t play the last two years. Jim Furyk won at Sherwood last year, and he likely will replace Woods as the PGA Tour Player of the Year when the voting outcome is announced this weekend.
The field also includes Dustin Johnson, who won twice and played in the final group at two majors; and multiple PGA Tour winners Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan.
For all of them, it’s gravy. There’s no cut, and last place pays $140,000.
Everything feels that way for McDowell at the moment.
“At some point this month I’ll sit down and reflect on what’s been a life-changing season,” McDowell said. “I really haven’t had a lot of chances, especially since the Ryder Cup, to think about what I’ve achieve this year.”
After winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he said it took more than a month to get his head around what he had done. And then came the Ryder Cup, and that 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, running into the arms of his teammates, the European celebration.
“It’s been a whirlwind ride, and it’s been certainly something I’ll be trying to reflect on and enjoy, and obviously to look to build on it moving into next year,” McDowell said.
2018 NCAA Golf Championships TV Schedule
Golf Channel will shine a spotlight on college golf across the next two weeks at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf National Championships. With more than 60 hours of live tournament and news coverage on-site from Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater Oklahoma (Monday-Wednesday May 21-23 and May 28-30), Golf Channel’s coverage connects 18 straight days of live tournament golf.
Watch live coverage of the NCAA Golf Championships beginning Monday, May 21 at 4pm ET on Golf Channel and streaming.
Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)
Monday, May 21: Individual National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 22:Quarterfinals, Team Match Play 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 22: Semifinals, Team Match Play 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Wednesday, May 23:Team Match Play National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)
Monday, May 28: Individual National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 29: Quarterfinals, Team Match Play 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Tuesday, May 29: Semifinals, Team Match Play 4-8 p.m. (Live)
Wednesday, May 30: Team Match Play National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)
AT&T Byron Nelson purse payout: Wise a millionaire
PGA Tour rookie Aaron Wise earned his first Tour title on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Trinity Forest:
|T9||Charles Howell III||-15||$207,900|
Howell, Uihlein qualify for U.S. Open via OWGR
Charles Howell III and Peter Uihlein both used strong play at the AT&T Byron Nelson to maintain their positions inside the top 60 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking, thereby ensuring exemptions to next month's U.S. Open.
Howell moved up three spots to No. 56 in the world thanks to a T-9 finish at Trinity Forest. He'll make his 10th career U.S. Open appearance, but just his second since 2009. Howell missed the cut at Olympic in 2012.
Uihlein finished T-21 in Dallas, which was barely enough to hold onto a top-60 spot as he actually fell two positions to No. 59. The former U.S. Amateur champ will make his third U.S. Open appearance and second in as many years.
The drama for the final spot came down to the wire on Sunday, where Adam Scott's bid to unseat Chesson Hadley at No. 60 came up just short. Needing a solo ninth-place finish, Scott ended up in a three-way tie for ninth to begin the new week at No. 61. Hadley, who didn't play the Nelson, remained No. 60 and will make his U.S. Open debut.
Others to punch tickets to Shinnecock Hills include No. 52 Luke List, No. 53 Chez Reavie and No. 57 Dylan Frittelli. A second and final top-60 cutoff will be done based off the June 11 world rankings following the FedEx St. Jude Classic, with U.S. Open sectional qualifying conducted in England and the U.S. on June 4.
The only change among the top 10 in the rankings this week came at No. 10, where Paul Casey moved past Tommy Fleetwood despite an off week for both players. Justin Thomas remains world No. 1 for a second week, followed by Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6, with Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Casey rounding out the top 10.
Taking the week off following a T-11 finish at The Players Championship, Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 82.
After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the Nelson's future ...
If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.
Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.
The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray
On Jordan Spieth's putting ...
Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.
He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.
Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.
Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta
On golf and gambling ...
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.
Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.
Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard