Jul
14
2010
What are we to make of Graeme McDowell?
By Merf under British Open

I’m piggybacking off my column for the Monterey County Herald with this post, where I wondered this: are we going to hear much from Graeme McDowell again? After someone wins his first major, there’s always a round table of TV analysts that awards the champion another one or two future majors that Sunday night. His game stood up on golf’s biggest stage, and this is just the beginning, blah, blah blah.

But did you know in the last 10 years, the only players to win their first major and then tack on at least one more are Angel Cabrera (two), Retief Goosen (two), Padraig Harrington (three) and Phil Mickelson (four)?

Yes, there are only so many majors to go around, especially when Tiger Woods wins 12 of them in the last decade. But there are some pretty big names stuck on just one major.

Former world No. 1 David Duval never won again. Neither has top 5 mainstay Jim Furyk. Or David Toms, Mike Weir, Zach Johnson or Geoff Ogilvy. They are all supposed to pile on more majors.

Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel both had memorable finishes to clinch their majors, but they are now fighting for exemptions. Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and Michael Campbell are answers to trivia questions. Trevor Immelman’s career hasn’t taken off, while Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang have been nearly invisible since winning their first major.

Sorry to quote myself there. Just didn’t want to write it again. I know the most recent winners haven’t had much time to sink their teeth into another major, but they didn’t exactly ride the wave of their career-changing and confidence-boosting win to more strong play, either.

So where does McDowell fit?

Well, we don’t have to find the answer this week. While McDowell shot a 62 at St. Andrews in the 2004 Dunhill Links, and he tied for 11th in the 2005 British Open at the Old Course despite making an 8 on the Road Hole on Saturday, history is heavily stacked against him at the moment.

No one who won his first major at the U.S. Open turned around and won the ensuing British Open. And the list of players who have won both the U.S. and British Opens in the same year is one of the most exclusive and enviable in the game: Woods (2000, during his Tiger Slam), Tom Watson (1982), Lee Trevino (1971), Ben Hogan (1953), Gene Sarazan (1932) and Bobby Jones (1930, 1926).

So while I liked McDowell in the interview room and all, I’m not ready to include him on that list. On top of that, we don’t even know if he’s still hot. McDowell took a few weeks off to party, and then played a tuneup in the Scottish Open last week, where he had a respectable tie for 21st.

“I’m very aware of the pitfalls — complacency, expectation levels, trying to change my game now that I’m a major champion,” McDowell said in his Tuesday press conference at St. Andrews. “There’s all kinds of mistakes that guys have made in the past.”

We shall see how well he can avoid the pitfalls — and pot bunkers.

[AP Photo/Peter Morrison]