Graeme McDowell delighted in producing a round to reflect his determination this year in signing for a two-under par 69 on day one of the Genesis Open at Riviera.
‘G Mac’ birdied three outward nine holes and dropped just the one bogey at 13 in a huge boost after missing the halfway cut last week at Pebble Beach where he’d won the 2010 U.S. Open.
McDowell hit 11 of 14 fairways with a laser-like display with the driver but struggled on the greens in recording 33 putts.
“I did most things pretty cleanly today like driving it well while my iron-play was pretty clean and my only disappointment of the round was that I did not have much feel on the greens,” he said.
“I find some of the greens an optical illusion, so my speed was not very good and while it could have been a few better conditions are tough out there with the greens firm and fast.
“You can see the Major Championship quality of the golf course coming out there this morning, and you can see that Riviera will be a good test for any Major Championship.”
McDowell commenced his 2018 Stateside campaign a week ago in missing the cut at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am after also missing out on contesting all four rounds in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
And despite any disappointment, there’s no questioning G Mac’s determination off the course
“It’s nice to take good range work and then put a number on the card,” he said.
“I mean, that’s really all this head is missing right now is some numbers. I’ve been hitting it really, really well in practice. I go to the Middle East and miss two cuts and kind of come home with my tail between my legs, but at the same time knowing I’m playing well. It’s hard to keep saying to yourself we’re playing well, we’re doing great things, we’re doing the right things and it’s MC, MC, MC.”
“You’re like sometimes it’s hard to be honest with yourself, but thankfully I think we are being honest with ourselves from the right point of view, that we are playing well and we’re trying to stay patient with it.”
“Like I say, I just need some numbers, I need to string some numbers together, get in the mix a little bit on the weekend, start believing in myself a little bit. That’s that little X factor that you can’t go practice. You can’t go practice having the belief, you know?”
And it prompted McDowell to be asked the difference of playing his first two events of 2018 in the Middle East or commencing a New Year on the PGA Tour’s ‘West Coast Swing’, a region where he has won a U.S. Open, two Hero World Challenge events and the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
“There’s something good about going to the Middle East and having the weather to play in,” he said.
“I’m not sure why I avoid the west coast as much as I do. When you look at my career, my west coast performances have been reasonably decent. Pebble, Olympic, a couple of wins at Sherwood. I’ve competed on the west coast well, so I’m not really quite sure why I avoid it like the plague.”
“But I’ve never played Torrey, U.S. Open venue. Why haven’t I gone there? No, like I say, I’ve just had a couple opportunities to be in the Middle East, I like it, the weather’s good, it’s good facilities. It’s always a good place to open up your year. You might see me starting to play a little more golf out here on the west coast if this weekend goes well and I reaffirm my west coast love.”
Padraig Harrington got his round off well and was not to be outdone by compatriate McIlroy as he also eagled the first, landing his second shot to 47-feet and securing his first ‘eagle’ of the new season.
Harrington, however, gave both shots back with bogeys at four and nine, and then also like McIlroy he birdied the 10th hole, after missing the green some 30-yards left to then hole an eight-footer.
The triple Major winner headed to the scorer’s room with a level par 71.
And Shane Lowry struggled with two birdies but twice as many bogeys in his score of 73.