Graeme McDowell fired a six-under 64 in the final round of the Honda Classic, tying the course record and surging up the leaderboard to a T6 finish (not to mention another six-figure check). McDowell has fared rather well on Sundays recently. Between his phenomenal 62 at Kapalua and his 64 at PGA National today, his final-round scoring average is 63.
“When you’re out of contention on Sunday, sometimes you can just go out and free swing it and make a score,” said McDowell. “I did that a bit in Hawaii being so far out of the lead. I just got into that groove and just aimed at every pin and had a good time.
“Today was the same. I was very relaxed. I was just in a mood where I wanted to go out and get some confidence in the bank for next week and not put any pressure on myself. It’s amazing sometimes when you don’t put pressure on yourself, good scores can come.”
McDowell, who struggled with the flatstick (relatively speaking, for his standards), found his stroke on Sunday, making two long putts, including a particularly nice 30-footer on No. 17.
“To make a bomb on 17 like that was pretty special,” he said.
With the soft conditions from the overnight rain and the mild wind, he hit a beautiful 3-iron on No. 18 to reach the par-5 in two, leaving him with a 20-footer for eagle to break the course record. His putt just missed, but he happily tapped in for birdie.
McDowell was particularly pleased with the way he played the daunting Bear Trap, the three-hole stretch starting at No. 15 known to ruin rounds with a blink of an eye — just ask Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy. G-Mac was one-under for the tournament on those holes, about five shots better than the rest of the field. He also credited his short game for saving him during a week where he struggled with ballstriking, especially on Thursday and Friday.
“I’m very pleased with the way my short game panned out over the week,” said McDowell.
“I was a little frustrated Thursday and Friday. I have been working so hard on my short game the last few weeks I feel like my long game has abandoned me now. I was feeling very under control with my ball flight. I went to Arizona (for the Match Play Championship) and seemed to leave my long game in Orlando…I didn’t strike it well and missed a lot of greens and managed to get up and down 100 percent from the sand.”
His ballstriking improved a bit over the weekend, but it’s still not 100%. Perhaps the quick session he had on the range with instructor Pete Cowen, who just flew in on Saturday night, gave McDowell some confidence before teeing off on Sunday.
“He finally plays well after I show up,” said Cowen half-jokingly, while walking down 18. “I brought the whip out.”
After the round, G-Mac said he was thinking about heading to the range to work with Cowen.
Informed of Cowen’s comments, McDowell, smiling, said, “I think he’s probably about to produce it right now. He’ll think he was the missing link today. We’ll tell him that to keep him happy.”
Next up? He’s playing in a pro-am at the prestigious Seminole Golf Club before heading down to Doral for the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Maybe the pieces will fall together for McDowell at an event where he’s played well in the past — he finished sixth last year.
(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)