Graeme finished his 2021 Irish Open with a round of 70 which put him tied 56. The standout round was 67 on day 2 and with Graeme’s ultra positive attitude when the consistency returns he will be back to the top.
Graeme produced a stirring fightback to set himself up for a potentially confidence boosting weekend at the 2021 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
“It’s so important, even looking forward to next week, the big key with this game is 65, 66, 67.
You feel good about yourself as we move on; there’s always next week. But if you’re missing cuts and going home on Friday night, you miss that weekend and you miss the opportunity to build. And I think that’s been one of the main problems the last 12 months, the amount of cuts that I’ve missed, which has just killed that ability to create confidence.
Because even 50th spot going out on a Sunday and shooting 65, you take something into the following week. So making the weekend here, having the ability to be able to create a little bit of momentum as I move into a huge week next week, not ruling out the chance of shooting something low tomorrow and having a chance here on Sunday.
But like I say, key to have four rounds” Rory McIlroy talks after arrival in County Kilkenny yesterday. “The last time I was on the 18th green here was that prize-giving ceremony. Tiger Woods won and I somehow sneaked my way under the ropes on to the back of the green.
I was standing right behind him and his glove was still in his back pocket. I could have reached out and got it and ran, that would have been a good story to tell. Obviously I didn’t. It was the first time I’d seen him play live.
I still remember the first shot I saw him hit, the drive at the 5th, a par five. He hit 2-iron into the green. It was so cool. I’d idolised him growing up and to actually see the man in the flesh was pretty exciting”.
“I’d made a bit of a name for myself as an amateur by then and knew Chubby (Chandler) and Darren (Clarke) so I was in the clubhouse and got to chat to Ernie when he won. It’s amazing to think it’s been 17 year.
Certainly a lot’s changed for me since the last time I was here. I might as well play the Scottish as well. My original plan up until last week was us to come as a family, play here, take a week off, which is now the Scottish Open, and play the Open.
With me being a sports person the restrictions are not as heavy for me as they would be for Erica and Poppy. I felt it wasn’t fair to put them through what they’d have to go through to be here with me. The plans changed very quickly and we made the decision I travel on my own.
I wasn’t going to go back to the States for a week inbetween the Irish and the Open, so if I’m here I might as well play the Scottish as well. It went very quickly from them coming, to not coming and then me playing three events in a row!
If anything, it’s probably worked out for the best. It’ll be nice to get a tournament on a links course before going into Sandwich. I didn’t play for a week because I was spending time with the family before being away. So I can now get to work here and in Scotland”
Defiant in the face of adversity.
“It’s just the mental side of the game that’s just not there. My expectation levels are high, so really trying to adjust that,” says McDowell.
“At this point, I really should be out here playing tournaments, enjoying myself, everything else is gravy from here. If I wasn’t to hit another shot here, it’s been a great run, it’s been a great career.
“But I’m not ready to walk away like this. I’m not ready to finish my career like this. I feel like I have the ability to continue to compete and play at a high level again.
“I’ve got things that I want to achieve, and it’s about kind of just refocusing on what does success look like for me now. It’s different from what it looked like 10 years ago and just making sure that I do a better job and give myself the ability to go on the golf course, relax, enjoy, the old cliché, get out of my own way.
“That’s kind of where I’m at right now. The game is probably closer than it looks on paper. Just not really putting numbers on the board, but I don’t really feel like I’m miles away.”
There is precedent this year alone that it’s not impossible to win after long droughts. Phil Mickelson won the US PGA at 51. Jordan Spieth claimed the Valero Texas Open after nearly four years without a win. Even Richard Bland, who McDowell will play the first two rounds with this week, won his first European Tour event at the 478th time of asking at the British Masters.
How desperately G-Mac would love to join them in the winner’s circle in Kilkenny this week, and he believes those recent victories prove it is within reach for him.
“One of the mistakes I made the last year is searching too deeply and trying to do things differently rather than focusing on the things that made me great to this point and trying to get better at those again,” he adds.
“It’s inspiring to see that guys can dig themselves out of holes. I’ve dug myself out of a hole a couple of times the last four or five years. There’s no reason why I can’t do it again.”
Round 1 – 74, Round 2 – 67, Round 3 – 70, Round 3 – 70, Total -3