Graeme McDowell is determined to celebrate the 19th anniversary of a first PGA Tour appearance with a return to winning form at today’s [Thursday] starting Houston Open.
McDowell was already a promising 21-year old amateur when he captured the 2000 South of Ireland championship at Lahinch, a win, due to sponsorship from Shell, that earned him an invitation into the 2001 Shell Houston Open.
Now with one major championship title along with 16 other pro wins to his credit, and also 243 PGA Tour events later, McDowell is back to Houston looking to rekindle the form that earned him victory earlier this year in Saudi Arabia and also a place in next week’s Masters.
“I teed-up here in 2001 and it was the first PGA Tour event with my folks coming over, so too did my little brother who caddied for me,” McDowell recalled. “It was at TPC Woodlands which is an event they used for a few years.”
Back to the present and after the frustration of some indifferent form soon after the June 11th lifting of the lockdown, and dealing with long-time caddy Ken Comboy testing positive for COVID-19, McDowell feels he is starting to show his true colours again which should bode well for this week.
“It’s been a frustrating summer as I felt like I had some nice momentum going into the break and when I came out of the break I felt great, as I had done a lot of work physically, I had loss a little bit of weight, and I was feeling good but I just couldn’t do a good job switching back into golf,” he said.
“So, I struggled with my game a little bit. I struggled with the atmosphere out there. I got off to a slow start with Kenny (Comboy – caddy) testing positive as I was planning to play the first couple of weeks like Connecticut and just keeping it going and sort of playing my way into form but when Kenny tested positive that kind of derailed the start so I never really got any momentum going.
“I’m not making any excuses but I certainly do miss the environment and the atmosphere a little bit but you have to work out your own way of dealing with that. From my point of view, I needed to get better and play better. So, I was really happy with the progress I made heading into the Dominican and Scotland and then Wentworth and left there with a nice feeling of what I was doing.
“I’ve also had three weeks off playing a lot of golf at home. I have been a little less range centric and a little more golf course centric which is something that I am trying to work at the minute and that is to play more golf and spend less time on the range looking for something.”
Joining McDowell are fellow Irish major champions in Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry. Harrington is competing again for a second week running on a Tour ‘minor medical exemption’ while Lowry can pick-and-choose on the back of a five-year Tour card in capturing last year’s Open Championship.
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain has been a great supporter of the Houston event playing all but two years from 2006 to 2018, grabbing a best finish of eighth in 2011. Lowry, like McDowell, is competing in Houston for a fourth time with his best result being a share of 14th two years ago.
IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time) – Houston Open
- Shane Lowry – 1.15pm
- Padraig Harrington – 2.05pm
- Graeme McDowell – 6.25pm
The Irish duo of Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin find themselves grouped for the opening two rounds of the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Shootout. It will be the same course where the pair competed last week but a different format. This second event calls for 36-holes over the first two days with the leading 32 and ties fighting it out on Saturday to be among the top-16 to go into Sunday’s shootout.
Full scoring HERE