Graeme McDowell is hoping a ‘new attitude’ in working with a new coach can lead to a second Italian Open victory title, 15-years on from winning a then second career Tour title in Milan.
McDowell has joined forces with highly-respected Houston-based, Kevin Kirk who works with the likes of Masters champion, Patrick Reed as well as Jhonattan Vegas and LPGA star, Lexi Thompson.
“Kevin’s now been working with me for the past eight weeks, and I’ve been very excited with regards the direction we are going,” said McDowell.
“It has led to some renewed enthusiasm and while I have only played a couple of events under his guidance, I feel like I am playing very well.
“Kevin studied under Pete Cowan, so it’s not like it’s some kind of crazy new off-the-way variation on technique. What he’s brought to my game is a new attitude and a more disciplined practice routine.
“It is a bit more of a goal orientated practice, so the technique stuff is about being more organised with my practice.
“I am also trying to create more confidence and more belief in practice, and being able to take that onto the golf course.
“So, he’s been good.”
Fifteen years ago, McDowell defeated Frenchman Thomas Levet over a Monday morning in Milan after rain had badly affected play in the 2004 Italian Open.
The event was reduced to 54-holes with McDowell defeating Levet in a play-off to not only capture the €200,000 first prize cheque for a second of now 10 European Tour wins, but also a 20cm high, 40cm wide and near 40kg ‘wheel’ of Parmesan Cheese.
It led at the time to an Italian journalist covering that 2004 event to remark: ‘Graeme now has enough Parmesan Cheese for 25-years of Spaghetti Bolognese.’
Joining McDowell in Rome are fellow Major Champions, Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry and one can bet the trio will be keeping close company off-course this week.
Both McDowell and more so, Lowry are desperate to qualify automatically for Harrington’s 2020 European Ryder Cup team, with McDowell on record as stating he knows he will be at Whistling Straits ‘one way or another’.
That would mean, and if he does not qualify for the team, a second straight vice-captaincy role could be in the offing.
Lowry’s main focus will be regaining the Race to Dubai lead in the absence of Jon Rahm, with Rahm storming clear of Lowry in successfully defending last week’s Spanish Open.
Lowry finds himself grouped for the opening two rounds of the $US7m event with 2018 Open Champion and standout local hero, Francesco Molinari along with England’s Matt Walllace.
IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time) …
7.10am – Graeme McDowell
7.30am – Shane Lowry
8am – Paul Dunne
12.20pm – Padraig Harrington