McDowell’s Sawgrass ‘superstar killer’ assessment ringing true

Bernie McGuire

Graeme McDowell (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell summed it up well describing TPC Sawgrass as a ‘superstar killer’.

McDowell was commenting on the disappointing efforts of Rory McIlroy following the defending Players Championship winner bowing out unceremoniously with shock scores of 79 and 75 for a horror 10-over par tally. In his 11 Players appearances, McIlroy has missed the cut four times – his first three appearances in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and also 2018 but the highest over par he’s been was seven-over on debut all of 12 years ago.

This week’s effort equals McIlroy’s highest opening 36-hole effort in 193 PGA Tour counting events. His prior worst scores were 75 and 77 for another 10-over tally in crashing out of the 2010 US Open while he shot scores of 80 and 70 for a similar 10-over-par 36-hole at the 2018 US Open.


McIlroy never recovered from a first hole double-bogey followed by a quadruple bogey ‘8’ at the 18th or his ninth hole on Thursday. Friday’s second round was just as sad to watch; a second straight double-bogey at the 10th hole, and the same tee-shot left into trees with McIlroy again having to take a penalty drop.

“They always call this golf course a little bit of a superstar killer,” said McDowell in joining his fellow US Open champ in sitting out the weekend rounds with scores of 73 and 74 for a three-over tally.

“I feel like this golf course has that reputation where the best players in the world can come here — it kind of had Rory’s number for a lot of years.

“What’s great about this golf course is if you play well you can score and if you don’t play well it’s going to punish you. There is no room to miss out there off the fairway, and we know how much trouble is around these greens that if you’re a little bit off you could make a big number, there’s a big number waiting for you in a lot of holes out there.

“To me, to me if you play well you can score, which I think is why you see that big disparity in the scores, because I know there are 8s and 9s and 10-overs out there and then there’s 3- and 4-unders. So, to me level par is going to be in an outstanding position on Sunday evening here. I think level par makes a big cheque, finishes top-15, top-10 here and that’s the way I like TPC Sawgrass, what I love about the Florida Swing.

“To me where we had Bay Hill last week and PGA National next week, I don’t even need to look at the agronomy report. I know how it’s going to play next week; it’s going to be firm, fast, windy and tough, and that’s kind of what we expect when we come to Florida.”

And how did all four ‘Muppets’ finish? The ‘Muppets’ was the description Ian Poulter labelled the fourball of Henrik Stenson, Tyrrell Hatton, McIlroy and himself who were sat at the same table post Thursday’s round.

The four were a combined 29-over par for their opening rounds. Well, the fourball now have the weekend off with Hatton almost clawing his way back inside the cut-mark, one shot shy at one-over. Poulter at four-over, McIlroy at 10-over and Stenson at 15-over, that’s 30-over par combined. There’ll be better weeks ahead for the European quarter.

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