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Front nine birdie blitz fires GMac to top-5 finish in Hawaii

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Graeme McDowell found just 11 of 18 greens in regulation but that didn’t stop him from making a final day impact at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

The Northern Irishman caught fire on his front nine, scorching up the leaderboard with five straight birdies before eventually ending his tournament at nine-under par.

McDowell finished his day tied for 4th as Cameron Smith’s par on the first extra hole saw him overcome Brendan Steele to take the title in Honolulu.

Webb Simpson took third spot at 10-under as Kevin Kisner and Ryan Palmer tied with this year’s Irish Open host in 4th at minus-nine.

It was a great day for McDowell whose six-under par round of 64 began with a fantastic chip-in on the 204-yard par-3 fourth. His tee shot went 200 yards to the left rough and his second shot went 29 yards to the fringe where he had a third shot chip-in to save par keeping him at even for the round.

After a drive to the left side of the fairway on the 467-yard par-4 fifth hole, McDowell had a 164 yard approach shot, setting himself up for the birdie.

On the 460-yard par-4 sixth hole, he reached the green in 2 and sunk a 19-foot putt for yet another gain to move to 2 under for the round.

McDowell missed the green on his first shot on the 176-yard par-3 seventh but had a chip in from 5 yards for birdie. This was his 3rd under-par hole in a row while at the 454-yard par-4 eighth hole, McDowell reached the green in 2 and sunk a 24-foot putt for another birdie as his relentless run continued.

After hitting his tee shot into the fairway bunker, the former US Open champ hit his next to the right side of the fairway reaching the green on his third shot and saving birdie on the par-5 ninth to move to 5 under for the round.

His tee shot at the 194-yard par-3 11th green led to a tough three-putt after missing a tricky one from 4-feet for par but he bounced back on the par-4 14th, his 166 yard approach to 14 feet setting up a birdie on the hole.

And there was more to come with GMac ensuring his round would finish with a flourish at the 551-yard par-5 18th where a two-putt birdie saw him sign for 64 in a performance that saw McDowell collect $277,750; not a bad start to 2020 as he continues his climb back up the world golf rankings.

McDowell’s round is his lowest since a pair of 64s last March and on route to victory in the Corales Puntacana Championship.

G Mac teed-up in Hawaii having slipped to 120th on the official World Rankings but has moved-up 20 places to be the No. 100th ranked player and back inside the top-100 for a first time since missing the halfway cut in last August’s Northern Trust, the opening event of the PGA Tour ‘Play-Off Series’.

“The key was to play the front nine well as I really hadn’t done that well this week as it was the back nine had been where I made most of my score,” he said.

“But it was really nice to get out on the front. Difficult conditions, you know, a bit more sustained rain today and a little less wind. Golf course is so soft. I felt like I had to try and keep the pedal down as much as I could because I knew scoring would be a little bit better today.

“So, all in all, happy with the week. Going to come up three or four short probably, but very content with a lot of the things I’m doing with my game right now.”

And McDowell again singled out his work with new coach, Kevin Kirk who he has been working with since last August with McDowell now producing the golf we know he’s capable.

“I started working with a new coach in August, Kevin Kirk, and he’s really got my technique dialed back in again and got my head dialed back in again, which is most important,” said McDowell.

“He’s got me practicing the right way and thinking the right way.

“So I’m excited just where he’s got me. I’m just excited with the schedule ahead really. I’m in my 40s now. I’m trying to view this as really trying to enjoy what I’m doing out here. I know it’s going to not be around forever.

“It’s important to work hard, prepare hard, and just go out there and try and relax and enjoy myself as much as possible.”

Shane Lowry also produced a final round 64 to finish a superb runner-up to Aussie Wade Ormsby in the Hong Kong Open but with the Open Champion remaining at World No. 19.

Rory McIlroy remains at No. 2 in the world but with current World No. 1 Brooks Koepka fit to commence his 2020 season at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where Lowry will defend in the UAE capital.

Full scoring HERE

 

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