With his left wrist still strapped, Graeme McDowell was just delighted to be back competing after a six-week injury absence instead of agonising over a final hole bogey on day one of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
McDowell was lying at five-under par in his very first event since contesting last December’s QBE Shootout when playing the final hole at the Pebble Beach course.
For the entirety of his walk around the famed course laid out along the Pacific Ocean, McDowell was reminded of his efforts of nine years ago this June when he celebrated Father’s Day by capturing the 2010 U.S. Open.
After first choosing a driver, ‘G Mac’ elected to play a 3-wood off the 18th tee to the right side of the fairway before placing his second shot in prime position to attack the green from 133-yards out.
He fired his approach to 21-feet short of the flag but after sending his first putt some three-foot past the hole, McDowell missed his par putt back, an error that threatened to take a little of the gloss off his four-under par 68. How wrong we had been.
McDowell revealed he’d injured the Lunate bone in his left wrist while hitting golf balls during a New Year family holiday in the Bahamas. At first the 39-year old thought it was just an early season strain that would go away with time but as it persisted, a scan soon revealed the source of the pain.
The injury forced McDowell out of the January 17th Desert Classic and the following week’s Farmers Insurance Open, two events where he had been afforded invitations.
And so, he arrived at Pebble Beach on Monday not having played 18 holes of golf since December 29th
“The pain just didn’t go away and the results from some scans showed a bone bruise in my left wrist,” he said.
“I had the scan right before I was due to go to Palm Springs and they told me not to play, so I took that week off and tried to play again right before Torrey Pines and they didn’t like it, so I pulled out right before Torrey.
“I was starting to get very frustrated, so let’s just say today I was very, very happy to be back on the golf course as it felt good to be out there.
“It all came about simply hitting golf balls and that is the disappointing thing. I was trying to work on something as I was trying to bow my left wrist a bit more like I used to and I don’t know, my wrist just did not enjoy that.
“I was down at the Bakers Bay club in the Bahamas with the family over the New Year and I wasn’t even hitting a bunch of balls, so it was really random and really obscure – kind of a weird injury and it’s taken the guts … it’s been a month, over a month and it’s still bothering me.
“At first, I wasn’t paying any attention to it. I thought at the time it was just my normal early season tweak and this will go away but it didn’t go away.
“It was not the start to a new season I wanted but like I say, I am just extremely happy to be on the golf course today and excited to hit some good looking shots as well.
McDowell’s first round was a mix of seven birdies and three bogeys. The Ulsterman, playing in the company of England’s Paul Casey, was three-under par at the turn thanks to birdies at two, four, six and then at the par-4 ninth hole where he rolled-in a 12-footer.
He went to four-under with a birdie on the par-4 11th hole and while he dropped a shot on 12, McDowell proceeded to birdie 13, with the pick of his birdies in holing a 13-footer at the downhill par-4 15th that took him to five-under par.
“After such a frustrating January, I was very excited today to be back on the golf course,” he continued.
“I am certainly not going to let that couple of foot putt at the last I missed spoil my day because on these greens, you are going to miss the odd one or two as they are very difficult to putt.
“I spent most of the day trying not to leave myself three-feet putts and unfortunately I did at the last and missed it coming back.
“But I hit a lot of quality shots today and I was very excited the way I played and it was a very positive start to the year really after a frustrating January.”
As indicated, it is the fourth occasion since his US Open success that McDowell has set foot on Pebble Beach and the love affair continues.
“This is such a fun event especially as Ed and I have become really good friends. We played last year’s Dunhill Links together and it’s a great week. It’s like the Dunhill in that if the weather is good here this week, it is one of those greatest weeks of the year. It’s one of those greatest walks of the year.”