5 Things: McDowell back in the winner's circle
High winds made for tough conditions Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links. It should be no surprise then that two major champions contended for the RBC Heritage title.
Here’s 5 Things you need to know from the showdown between Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson.
Graeme McDowell: A year to remember
Graeme McDowell had a banner year in 2010. A look at it in pictures:
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1. G-MAC'S BACK IN THE WINNER'S CIRCLE: High winds helped Graeme McDowell make a final-round run at Harbour Town. He started the final round four shots off the lead. His 2-under 69 Sunday was enough for him to get in a playoff with Webb Simpson, which McDowell won on the first hole.
“The weather was kind of what the doctor ordered for me today,” McDowel said. “I needed the golf course to play difficult.”
McDowell’s 69 matched the low round of the day. He hit his approach to approximately 15 feet on the first extra hole, then two-putted for par. It was McDowell’s second PGA Tour victory, and first since the 2010 U.S. Open.
McDowell fell into the playoff after missing a 13-foot par putt on the final hole of regulation. It was his first bogey since the third hole of the third round, a span of 32 holes. McDowell and Simpson finished at 9-under 275.
The victory was his fourth top-10 in seven PGA Tour starts this season. It was his first full-field victory since the 2010 Andalucia Valderrama Masters. He also won the World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ limited-field, year-end event, in 2010 and 2012. McDowell also noted that this was his first win in an odd-numbered year. “Not that I’m paying any attention,” he said.
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2. SIMPSON'S SECOND: The McDowell-Simpson playoff pit two of the past three U.S. Open champions against each other. Simpson won in 2012, finishing one shot ahead of McDowell and Michael Thompson at Olympic Club.
Simpson couldn’t top McDowell again, though, missing an 8-foot par putt on the first hole of their playoff. Simpson missed the green well right, but almost holed out after putting from the fairway. His putt slid 8 feet by the hole, though, and he couldn’t make the comebacker. He shot 71 Sunday. Simpson said conversations with his wife, Dowd, helped restore his confidence.
“My best attribute is my mind and my mind, I feel, is what’s been holding me back this year,” Simpson said. “And we were trying to dive into why I don’t feel like I’m playing free and with confidence. So every time I play with a good junior player, ... all they see is the shot they’re trying to hit. So I’m just trying to play more like a kid.”
This was Simpson’s fourth runner-up finish of his PGA Tour career, including three playoff losses. He started the day in second place, two shots behind Charley Hoffman, and shot 71 Sunday. Simpson was two shots off the lead after a bogey at No. 10, but birdied the 12th hole and made par on the final six holes.
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3. BAD HAIR DAY: Charley Hoffman held the 54-hole lead at the Heritage, the first time he was in front entering the final round of a PGA Tour event. Hoffman struggled as the front-runner, shooting 77 to finish sixth. He held a one-shot lead at the turn, but shot 5-over 40 on his final nine holes.
“I actually hit more fairways and greens that I did yesterday. And the shots I hit good didn’t turn out like I thought they were going to turn out,” Hoffman said. “The wind gusting and sometimes it doesn’t work out, and it didn’t work out today.”
He trailed by two shots after a double-bogey at the par-3 14th, where he hit his tee shot in the water right of the green. He parred the next two holes, then made bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18. He finished four shots out of the McDowell-Simpson playoff.
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4. THE DONALD: Luke Donald continued his success at Harbour Town with his third-place finish. Donald shot a final-round 69, tied for the low round of the day, to jump from 14th to third, two shots out of the playoff. He made birdie on four of his first six holes Sunday, but shot 2-over 37 on the back nine. Donald had three bogeys (Nos. 10, 13 and 15) and just a single birdie (at No. 11) on the final nine.
Donald finished in the top three at the Heritage in 2009-11.
Donald’s best finish in five previous PGA Tour starts this season was a T-4 at the Tampa Bay Championship. He’s finished in the top 25 in all six of his Tour starts in 2013. Donald, who was No. 1 in the world as late as Aug. 12, started the week at No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Kevin Streelman, winner of the recent Tampa Bay Championship, also tied for third. Donald won in Tampa Bay in 2012.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Jordan Spieth finished T-9 to collect his third top-10 in seven PGA Tour starts as a professional. He shot 73 Sunday, including 3-over 38 on his final nine holes, to finish at 3-under 281 (70-69-69-73). Spieth, who turned pro in December, already has earned special temporary membership, which allows him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the season. He’s in the field for next week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, as well. ... Camilo Villegas finished T-9, his first top-10 on the PGA Tour since September 2011. ... Russell Henley’s sixth-place finish was his first top-10 since his victory in his first start of the season, the Sony Open in Hawaii. Henley lives in Daniel Island, S.C. ... Defending champion Brandt Snedeker finished 59th after failing to break par in any of the four rounds. He shot 73-71-71-74. ... Hunter Mahan finished last among players who made the 36-hole cut, shooting 68-76-78. He also missed the cut at last week’s Masters after rounds of 76-82. He is 24 over in his last seven rounds on Tour, having failed to complete 72 holes in his past three starts. He’s shot over par in five of those seven rounds. ... Daniel Nisbet, who got in on a sponsor exemption after winning last year’s Players Amateur, missed the cut with rounds of 76-79.