Re-focused McDowell starts new season with a bang

By Will GrayNovember 16, 2015, 6:06 pm

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Given a second chance to win the OHL Classic, Graeme McDowell took dead aim and did not falter.

Describing his final approach as one of the best 5-irons he has ever hit, McDowell carved a shot from 215 yards to within 3 feet on the first playoff hole. The subsequent putt gave him a victory over Russell Knox and Jason Bohn, his first PGA Tour win in nearly three years and a much-needed highlight to end what has been an otherwise disastrous year inside the ropes.

McDowell entered this week at No. 85 in the world rankings, 70 spots below where he stood in January. His exempt status that dates back to his win at the 2010 U.S. Open was set to expire at the end of this season, and he was facing the prospect of missing the Masters for the first time since 2008.

Thanks to one final birdie, McDowell can now book trips to Kapalua and Augusta National next year, and his PGA Tour credential is good until 2018.

McDowell said his focus shifted this year to his wife and 1-year-old daughter, a welcome change but one that admittedly took a toll on his game. Without a win since the 2013 RBC Heritage, the 36-year-old found himself in the midst of a candid self-examination.

“There were multiple times during the year where I was losing belief in myself, where you’re asking yourself questions like, ‘Am I good enough anymore? Am I finished with this game? Do I have long left?’ Questions like that,” McDowell said. “When you’re out there for five and a half hours on the golf course and not playing well, these are the types of questions you ask yourself.

“I think that’s why golf is the ultimate mental sport, because you have all the time in the world to ask yourself all the crazy questions in the world.”

Those questions were all answered emphatically on Monday in Mexico, where McDowell began the final-round re-start tied for the lead with five holes to go. After a three-putt bogey on No. 16, he faced an 8-footer for par on No. 18 to remain within a shot of Knox.

The putt was center-cut the whole way.

“I thought if I had any threat of a chance, I had to make that putt,” he said.

McDowell’s watershed would not have been possible were it not for a reprieve from Knox, who bogeyed the final hole to forfeit his one-shot advantage. Eyeing back-to-back PGA Tour wins, Knox pulled his final drive into a fairway bunker and missed a 12-foot par save that would have won the tournament.

“It was unfortunate to hit a bad drive, since ultimately it cost me the tournament,” Knox said. “Because I didn’t, I don’t deserve it.”

That opened the door for McDowell, whose winning approach was keyed by advice from two fronts. First, caddie Ken Comboy talked McDowell into hitting a 5-iron, whereas his player favored a 6-iron because of adrenaline.

The second source was a bit more unexpected: Greg Norman, who sent McDowell a few swing tips via text following the third round. The Ulsterman put the advice into use Sunday, and added that he relied on it when hitting the shot that ultimately won him the tournament.

“He reminded me of some stuff,” McDowell said. “Obviously he’s one of my big heroes, both on and off the golf course, and that was nice to get a little positive reinforcement from the Shark.”

McDowell has shown signs of his old form throughout the year, but he has struggled to string four rounds together and suffered from what he described as “Sunday afternoon letdowns” at several recent events. But there was no letdown this time, as McDowell flashed the same determined look that earned him a major championship at Pebble Beach and has helped steer the Europeans to multiple Ryder Cup wins since.

McDowell missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs entirely last season, and while he was a surprise entry into the field this week, he explained that it was part of a revised plan of attack after traditionally beginning his season with the Florida swing.

“I basically lost my card this year. Thankfully, I had another year of exemption, but I couldn’t be in this position this time next year regardless,” he said. “Being at Mayakoba was a part of re-prioritizing and a re-focus.”

What he originally hoped would be a chance to earn a few extra FedEx Cup points turned into something much more meaningful. McDowell is back in the winner’s circle, back in some of the game’s elite events and trending back toward the place in the world rankings where he feels he belongs.

“There’s no doubt I doubted myself many times this year, but the last few months has been much more where I want to be,” he said. “This is big for me. I dreamed of this day coming again sometime, maybe I thought it would not be quite as soon as this. And I said to myself that I was really going to appreciate it, and I do appreciate it. This feels really nice.”

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1