HSBC notes: Van Pelt finds his game in Asia
SHANGHAI - Riding a hot streak, Bo Van Pelt is 28 under for his past five rounds: a 23-under victory last week at the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia and his first round here Thursday at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
In earning his second Tour title, Van Pelt made some minor changes that have produced major results. He changed putters in the weeks preceding the Malaysian event and studied his swing on a computer.
Van Pelt had TaylorMade send him a mallet-type putter that contrasts greatly from the blade-type he was using. He also asked that the shaft be cut to 35 inches from the 36-inch model that he played.
When Van Pelt got the putter at home the week before leaving for Malaysia, he worked with it on his backyard putting green and decided to put it in the bag.
“I putted terrible all year,” said Van Pelt, 36. “When you have not had a ton of success, you will try anything.”
In reviewing his swing on video, Van Pelt noted some mistakes and rekindled his swing keys.
“When I first got to the course Tuesday in Malaysia, I had time to reflect on what I was going to try and do with my golf swing,” Van Pelt said. “It just felt good on the range on Tuesday, and it just has kind of carried over.”
• Rally-killer: Graeme McDowell briefly had the lead in Thursday’s first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions, with a stretch of four birdies in his first seven holes at Sheshan International Golf Club. When he tried to squeeze a 5-wood into the par-3 17th hole, his eighth of the day, he blocked it into a pond and, as he said after a "three-wiggle," made a triple-bogey 6.
But McDowell fought back and made seven birdies and finished 3 under.
“I’m playing this week and five after this,” McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, said of his schedule. “So it's important to finish the season strong. It’s been a frustrating season for me. I’ve had some up-and-downs, and it would be nice to put a bit of a shine on it."
Last week, when McDowell shot 81-82 on the weekend in the Andalucia Masters, clearly would be one of those "downs." It was a week when the U.S. Open champion admitted throwing in the towel with 27 holes to go and was, in his words, “one of the more embarrassing weekends I’ve ever had in my golf career.”
McDowell was unable to aim anywhere on the golf course with confidence. He couldn’t target the right side of the fairway because he couldn’t rely on his draw, and he couldn’t play up the left side because he didn’t have a fade.
“So I had no shot in the bag,” said McDowell, 32, of Northern Ireland. “And I couldn’t make a putt, either.”
In a range session Tuesday with instructor Pete Cowen, McDowell addressed the problem, which was that he wasn’t getting the ball started on the correct line, which meant he could not control a draw or a fade.
It’s a problem that McDowell has fought for most of this year.
“I felt like the last couple of months, I’ve been working on trying to hit a perfectly straight golf shot,” McDowell said. “As soon as you get on the golf course, you realize it’s – you aim at the left side of the fairways and right side of the greens and trying to hit draws and fades and moving the ball around. That’s what I did last year.”
McDowell likes to shape shots, so when he can’t he is in no man's land, such as last week at Valderrama.
“I’ve been angrier this year with myself because I want it too much,” McDowell said. “We are all guilty of wanting it too badly sometimes. This game has beat me up this year, there’s no doubt about it, but I'm trying to get back to believing in myself and enjoying myself a little bit.”
• Short shots: Keegan Bradley’s 7-under 65 is his second-lowest score since winning the PGA Championship in August. Bradley shot a 6-under 64 to lead the first round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta, eventually finishing 11th, his best finish since his major victory. . . . Eleven eagles were recorded in Thursday’s first round, but only Fredrik Jacobsen and David Toms made theirs for 2s, when both eagled the par-4 16th hole.