GMac eyeing best Masters finish despite final hole frustration

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GMac eyeing best Masters finish despite final hole frustration

Graeme McDowell plays his stroke from the No. 2 tee during Round 1 of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, Thursday, November 12, 2020.

Graeme McDowell believes he’s playing well enough to put the frustration of a double-bogey at his closing hole on Thursday behind him and strive for his career best Masters finish this week at Augusta.

The 41-year old former US Open Champion had recovered from being two-over par through six holes to be two-under playing his last but pulled his drive badly off the par-4 ninth tee – his 18th hole of the opening day – before racking up a six and signing for an even par round of 72.

“It’s never any fun to finish like that,” said McDowell who sits just inside the top-50 with half the field yet to finish their second rounds and seven behind early clubhouse leader Paul Casey after his 65.  

“I missed one fairway today, and that’s the one on 9, and I pulled a horrendous lie under a branch for my second shot and I could only manage to putt it out of there and left myself on the downslope in the rough and made 6 from there, after what was a fast start. I got a mud ball on 10 my first hole, hit it in the right trap, and then I got a mud ball again on 13, laid it up in the hazard. And then I three‑putted 15 for a par. 

“I was kind of reeling at that point a little bit, but rescued the day. Birdied 16 and then really played quite solidly after that. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of quality shots. Like I said, disappointed to finish like that, but lots of positives to take into tomorrow. I mean, the golf course is certainly as soft as you’re ever going to see Augusta. It’s as gettable as we’re ever going to see at this place, and there was certainly a good score to be had out there, I just couldn’t quite get the job done.”

McDowell revealed pre-tournament that this week he’d be rekindling what he described a love/hate relationship with Augusta – the love on account of it being one of his favourite golf courses in the world, but the hate simmering because he’s yet to shine the way he knows he can on the famous tree-lined parkland. It would be difficult to read much course form into the former US Open champion’s mixed bag around Augusta but he has proved himself in the past with a share of 17th spot all the way back in 2009 before his career-best Masters finish of a tie for 12th in 2012, a result he now believes he can beat despite losing shots to the field with an opening day even par effort.

“This is probably as comfortable, I think, as I’ve ever felt at this golf course,” McDowell added.The way I drove it today, I had lots of great looks at iron shots. I’ve just never had a great putting week here. It’s so different. It’s so different right now from what we expect, everything from the lack of fans to the softness of this place. It’s just November, and it’s just kind of Mother Nature.  You know, it’s still a fantastic golf course, still my favourite.

“I really enjoyed myself out there, to be honest with you. It’s so much more chill here, I guess, from the intensity of what the Masters Tournament normally is, without a fans. I’m a guy who likes the intensity, I need that, and we’re obviously very, very hopeful that we can get them all back in April. First and foremost I want to have a great weekend from here. 12th I think is my best Masters finish, and I feel like I’m playing well enough to do better than that this weekend.”

Shane Lowry was also left somewhat bemused by his continued struggles around Augusta after only managing a two-over par 74 while most of the field were flying on the opening day. Rory McIlroy faces a daunting up and down from the green-side bunker on 10 when he resumes his second round from even par after choosing not to complete the hole after the siren blew at the end of day one while James Sugrue bogeyed three holes on the spin before reaching the turn in four-over par 40.

Play is set to resume at 12.30pm Irish time with round two scheduled to begin at 2.35pm. Full scoring HERE

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