ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – It was, by any measure, an unforced error, but considering the last few weeks for Graeme McDowell it was a perfectly understandable miscue.
As the Northern Irishman approached his tee shot in the middle of the first fairway on Saturday he went on “auto pilot,” reaching down to mark his ball and clean it.
“I picked it up and Michael Kim is looking at me and I knew immediately,” said McDowell, who forgot that the Tour wasn't playing preferred lies on Saturday.
In McDowell’s defense, 17 of his last 24 rounds have been played using preferred lies, including three of four rounds last week on his way to winning the OHL Classic and Days 1 and 2 at the RSM Classic.
“I’ve been doing a lot of lift, clean and place the last three weeks and I literally got into auto pilot,” said McDowell, who scrambled for a one-putt par from 10 feet at the first after being assessed a one-stroke penalty. “I was thinking this is going to be a better story in the pub with my mates if I make it.”
It will be an even better tale if McDowell wins his second consecutive event on Sunday when he will start the final round alone in third place, four strokes behind front-runner Kevin Kisner. That is, if he can keep from making the same mistake he did on No. 1.
“I put all my tees in my caddie’s bib because I didn’t want to go in my pocket,” McDowell laughed.