Serving as co-host, Graeme McDowell enters Bay Hill with 'quiet confidence'

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Serving as co-host, Graeme McDowell enters Bay Hill with 'quiet confidence'

PGA Tour

Serving as co-host, Graeme McDowell enters Bay Hill with 'quiet confidence'

ORLANDO, Fla. – Not that he knows the particular reason, but Graeme McDowell is quick to acknowledge that he owns something of a feast-or-famine relationship with the Bay Hill Club & Lodge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McDowell, 37, was a runner-up at Bay Hill in 2005 – a key steppingstone to earning a PGA Tour card – and again in 2012. He also has missed the cut four times in nine starts at Bay Hill, including each of the last two years.

“This has been a funny golf course for me,” he said. “I either take a short drive home on Friday night (to Lake Nona) or I play pretty well. So, it’s a funny track for me, this one. It’s a tough golf course.”

Tournament competitor is but one of McDowell’s roles this week. He is a brand ambassador for MasterCard, the tournament’s presenting sponsor, which keeps him busy each year with early-week activities. In addition, he is one of five prominent individuals – with Peter Jacobsen, Curtis Strange, Annika Sorenstam and Tom Ridge – tabbed to serve as tournament hosts this week, the first time the event has been staged without its namesake host.

McDowell isn’t as concerned about this week’s tournament as he is about 2018 and beyond, making sure the legacy of Palmer lives on with the game’s younger players.

“I think that part of the continuing legacy would be to use the Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer) Invitational as an educational week for guys to understand how they should conduct themselves, how they should respect every time they sign their signature on a hat or flag and how they should treat people and what the man created and did and as a businessman and charitable giving.”

McDowell was concerned that his many duties could make for a hectic week. Amy Saunders, who, along with her husband, Roy, oversees operations at Bay Hill and chairs the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation, knows better than most that McDowell has a day job to do. After all, she is the daughter of Arnold Palmer.

McDowell currently is ranked 87th in the world, and is not in next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play nor in the upcoming Masters. He doesn’t want to miss either, but he’s not going to beat himself up if he doesn’t do something outlandishly good to get there, either. He said he is exerting patience with his game, and has been seeing some positive signs.

A week ago at the Valspar Championship, McDowell opened by shooting 4-over 75, and faced another weekend off. But he rallied with 67 on Friday, played solidly on the weekend, and tied for 14th.

“Four-over par after four holes on Thursday is not really going to get it done on the PGA Tour, let alone any tour, really,” said McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion. “It was great to dig myself out of that and play as well as I did on the weekend.

“I think a big comparison to this year versus last year, I missed a lot of cuts last year and making cuts, even 30 or 40 or 50th position on the weekend, you can just build some momentum. You play a nine holes or an 18 holes on a Saturday or Sunday that just kind of gives you something to pull on as you move into the following week. So I feel like I come in here this week really starting to feel like I’m happy where my game’s going. It’s trending in the right direction. I kind of got a quiet confidence about what I’m doing on the golf course.”

In the midst of a week that should be as fulfilling as it is busy, being quietly confident would seem a good place to be.

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