Graeme McDowell / Image from Getty Images
It is funny how golfing fortunes unfold.
Picture this…..neighbours and Ryder Cup team-mates Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson arrive at the at Orlando International together and check-in to head ‘to work’ at an upcoming tournament. But they don’t get on the same flight and instead McDowell heads to Puerto Rico and Stenson to Mexico City.
Having lost his PGA Tour card at the end of last season McDowell has been somewhat forced into teeing-up in this week’s $3m Puerto Rico Open, while Stenson, enjoying the benefits of a 10-year exemption in capturing the 2016 Open, is bound for the $10.25m WGC – Mexico Championship.
The Northern Irishman and Swede headed through the security check points together and then found themselves at adjoining gates with McDowell commenting; “It was heroes to the left, zeroes to the right,” in an article appearing on the PGA Tour website.
“It was a funny start to the week, but I’m excited to be back on the golf course. Any PGA Tour event is a great opportunity. There are still a lot of FedExCup points and a lot to play for here.”
McDowell made his season-debut at the recent AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am but competed for the four days with his left wrist heavily strapped and having bruised the lunate bone during a New Year practice session in the Bahamas.
And now after a week’s break from competition he will tee-up in Puerto Rico with his wrist now about 95% fit.
“I’m excited to be playing golf now,” he said.
He said he’s been working hard on the mental side of his game the last few years and he’s starting to trust the belief he has in himself when he gets in contention once again.
McDowell is more motivated than ever by his three young children (Valyn, 10, Vale, 4, and Wills, 2) and the desire to have a big moment to share together.
“I want them to see me win, and I want to show them that Dad’s a great player and they won’t have to pull out the old archive videos,” said McDowell. “It’s more difficult to leave home (now) but the other part of it is that visual – you see guys lifting a trophy and the kids are running onto the 72nd green to give Dad a hug… that’s a special visual.”
McDowell turns 40 this year and has much to look forward to.
He had a special moment with his own father in 2010 at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and already has eyes on returning as a past champion to the storied Californian course this summer.
“It was nice to return a few weeks ago,” he said (he finished T-18). “To be part of the lore at Pebble Beach is something special.”
He’s going to have his father back on site again, and his wife will be there for the first time this year; “It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to, but a lot of golf is still to be played,” he said.
Potentially a bigger goal than playing well again at Pebble Beach, is of course qualifying for this year’s Open Championship, taking place at McDowell’s pseudo home club in Northern Ireland: Royal Portrush.
Until then it’s going to be one thing at a time as he returns from injury.
“I’m in Puerto Rico, trying to stay in the present and I feel like I’m play well and I’d love to be competitive this week,” he commented.