During his pre-tournament presser on Wednesday, Graeme McDowell said that after working with his coach, Pete Cowen, he finally felt like he was turning a corner. McDowell, who has struggled so far in ’11, noted he hadn’t done much at this point last year, but it panned out okay.
After posting solid rounds of 67-69, G-Mac finds himself near the top of the leaderboard again — something he hasn’t experienced at the midway mark of an event this season. He’s currently tied for fourth with a 36-hole total of eight-under, trailing leader David Toms by just two strokes.
McDowell opened up and elaborated on the mental anguish torturing him over the last few months. He missed the cut at Bay Hill, the Masters and at the Zurich Classic, where felt like he hit “rock bottom.”
“New Orleans a couple weeks ago was the low point of the year for sure,” said G-Mac. “I was hitting some awful shots, you know — 15 handicap would have been about right, probably.”
Despite starting the year with three top-ten finishes, he rallied back on Sundays to climb up the leaderboard, including a closing 62 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and 64 at the Honda Classic. He didn’t shoot those scores when he was under the gun or in contention.
“To be honest, I probably backed into most of my good results this year, with a low one last round in Hawaii, decent run in Abu Dhabi, and I backed into it at the Honda Classic, as well,” said McDowell. “I haven’t put myself in position going into Saturday this year. So I said to my caddie (Ken Comboy) walking to the first tee yesterday, I said I’m missing being back in contention. Let’s go and put ourselves in contention this weekend.
“So I’m really happy to be back there. That’s where you want to be on the weekends.”
The defending US Open champion admitted he even struggled with the same type of inner torment the average golfer confronts. You know, those awful feelings of self-doubt that run through our minds. Yeah, the No. 5 player in the world deals with them, too.
“You go through a spell like I’ve just gone through, where I couldn’t piece anything together, and you have crazy thoughts like, ‘will I ever win again?’, ‘will I ever be in contention again?’, ‘am I done?’, ‘am I finished?'” McDowell confessed. “It’s just the craziness of this sport — you never really know what’s round the corner. There’s no doubt my technique has been off the mark the last four or five weeks.”
And then he summed up the love-hate relationship we have with golf, which is exactly why we don’t throw in the towel and return time after time (no, not because we’re masochists).
“It’s why we love it, it’s why we hate it, and it’s why it keeps us coming back for more.”
McDowell realized the problem was his technique. “I’ve been swinging the golf club like an idiot,” he cracked.
His swing coach Cowen flew into Orlando last Friday and they grinded. Finally, G-Mac felt some things begin to click. He had been starting the ball left of the target and he can’t play golf when that happens. He and Cowen worked on getting the ball back to starting right of the target again.
“My striking is back, my pressure’s back on the ball again, and I’m really, really happy with the way I’ve struck the ball the last couple of days,” he said.
While he arrived at TPC Sawgrass with no expectations, his play in the first two rounds has triggered a resurgence in his confidence.
“Whatever happens this weekend, these last two days have been a huge step forward for me after the way I played the last six weeks.”
(AP Photo/David Goldman)