Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.
While 2012 was a good year for the Ulsterman in so many ways, his relief at claiming Woods’ World Challenge at Sherwood last December was palpable as it underlined the psychological importance of getting over the line in a game where you’re almost always a loser.
Claiming the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in a play-off on Sunday was huge for the 33-year old in so many ways. Not only did he take care of two of his season’s ambitions in one go—a PGA Tour victory and a big move towards a re-establishing himself in the world’s Top-5 with a 10 place jump to eighth—he reinforced his belief that he’s on the right track mentally, physically and emotionally.
Having claimed the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, McDowell’s career has been all about proving that major win was no one-hit wonder. It’s a quest that goes on despite his stellar play since that memorable June evening on the Monterey Peninsula.
Getting into the final group at the US Open and The Open last year only to come away empty-handed hurt the affable Portrush man. Gaining some semblance of revenge over Webb Simpson for that runner-up finish in the US Open at Olympic Club last year will not have registered with him. What will have given him confidence was the way he drove the ball in the final round on Sunday night. After all, it was driving that undid him in the US Open last year.
A player with no major weaknesses in his game, McDowell has added a smidgen of length this season and also worked hard to improve his short game—especially his bunker play, his putting and his hybrids.
Those are the weapons that will bring him major number two but he admitted on Sunday night that getting some tangible feedback on those improvements means more than anything.
“To win Tiger’s event end of last year, unofficial, small field, blah, blah, I took a lot of confidence from that, also, because I had a solid season last year and got nothing from it,” said McDowell, who was fully aware thaT he had never won an event in an odd-numbered year until Sunday.
“So this is probably one of the more special ones in my career because it feels right. It feels good. My first real win on this side of the pond as a PGA Tour player. I feel this is building blocks for something good this year and beyond. I’m very excited about this.”
McDowell has never been in such a good place, either professionally or privately. Engaged to be married to fiancée Kristin Stape later this year, he has a solid on-course partner in the respected Mancunian caddie Ken Comboy, a reliable management team at Horizon and a raft of blue chip sponsors, including RBC.
Having recently decided to become a partner in a restaurant business near his Orlando base at Lake Nona, he kept his promise of a free bar at Nona Blue on Sunday night.
McDowell’s greatest asset, apart from charming personality and his ability to hit fairways, is his strength between the ears and his courage. He’s also smart enough to avoid obsessive behaviour that drives others to distraction. He’s hard with a soft-centre, which makes him one of the most popular players in the game.
Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.