Notes: McDowell, Overton make big moves
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – If you want to call this week’s Honda Classic Graeme McDowell’s first tournament of the 2012 PGA Tour season, he won’t disagree. The record might indicate otherwise, but the man from Northern Ireland puts an asterisk on last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Photos: Friday at The Honda Classic
View images by Golfweek's Tracy Wilcox during Friday's round of The Honda Classic on the PGA National Champion Course.
His stay lasted one day . . .
Er, correction. Make that “a morning,” said McDowell. “It was about three hours. I had my bags packed by 11:05 a.m.”
To paraphrase Charles Dickens, McDowell looks upon the season’s first World Golf Championship as “one of the best and one of the worst events of the year for me.”
“You’ve got to only beat six guys to pick up a huge amount of world ranking points and a huge check,” McDowell said.
But the worst?
“You go and make six birdies in a stoke-play event you’re in maybe third place, worst case. Instead (McDowell made six birdies and) I was packing my bags and going home.”
Ousted 2 and 1 by Y.E. Yang, McDowell was eliminated in the first round for the third time in four years at Dove Mountain’s Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Marana, Ariz. The hotel? Check. The condition of the course? Check. The way players are treated? Check. The course itself?
“I’ve gone and played well in the first round and gotten beat a few times. (So), I’ll not be sad to see it leave, hopefully. The golf course has not be kind to me."
Frankly, McDowell would be in favor of moving the WGC Match Play Championship to later in the year, after the majors, “where guys could go and be a bit more accepting and having their games in great shape instead of going in there maybe not as sharp as you want to be.”
This time of year is all about getting games in shape, McDowell said, and playing a demanding and watery PGA National is perfect for him.
“This just toughens us all up for a big stretch of golf. I’m kind of viewing this as the beginning of my spring/summer season which is the key to the season,” McDowell said. “You’ve got to play well and I don’t come up for air until the Ryder Cup gets picked and I’m playing hard till then.”
McDowell’s 6-under 64 on Friday matched what he shot in the final round here at year ago, a push that got him into a share of sixth. It would prove to be his best finish on the PGA Tour in 2012, but McDowell has designs on doing so much more in 2012. In that cause, he’s hoping for more shots like “the chippy 6 iron” at the 186-yard, par-3 15th that came to rest inside of two feet, his fourth consecutive birdie.
“I knew (Thursday) that I played better than I scored,” McDowell said. “So I was confident (Friday) I could make some birdies and get myself in position.”
• • •
HEATING UP: There are no guarantees in life, but Jeff Overton is fairly certain that he won’t have a repeat of what happened the last time he went low. That would be the recent Waste Management Open, when he opened with a 67, but lasted only nine holes the next day. “I snap-hooked it into the water on 18 and said, ‘Screw it, I’m done,’ “ said Overton, citing a chronic problem he has with his left wrist. The best medicine seems to be warm weather. Since he’s got that here at the PGA National, Overton is riding some confidence after a 5-under 65 got him halfway home at 4 under. That was just four off the lead when he finished his morning round. It was his lowest round in a pure PGA Tour event since shooting that same score at last summer’s AT&T National. Having enjoyed a stellar 2010 campaign when he made the Ryder Cup team and finished 12th on the money list, Overton slumped to 74th in 2011 and concedes his expectations were “too high” and he put “too much pressure on myself.” But in late October, Overton finished second at the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia, felt his game was rounding into shape, then carried some momentum into 2012 when suddenly he didn’t feel comfortable trying to hit a cut shot. So Overton took a week off before the Waste Management, worked here in Florida with Craig Harmon and figures he hit so many cut shots that when he got to TPC Scottsdale “my right hand gave out.” But now? “I feel great. I think the heat is good for the wrist,” Overton said.
• • •
TAKING PRIDE: It was nearing 6:20 p.m., the sun had pretty much bid farewell for the day, and Dicky Pride had a 50-foot eagle putt at the 18th hole. He said later that he could see the line, that darkness wasn’t an issue. Of course, he jammed it about 10 feet by, so all he could do was laugh. “I had to hit that far by, just to see the break coming back,” said Pride, who converted the comebacker to finish off crisp back nine (32), a solid round (67), and a surprising share of third halfway through. At 7-under 133 he’ll play the third round Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy. Now if you think that Pride will be in awe of being in the company of a young prince, consider this: He is frequently in company of a king – Arnold Palmer – when he plays at his home course, Bay Hill. Yes, there have been a few dollars involved in various competition rounds and Pride assesses the status thusly: “I think he’s up in cash, but I’m up in advice and what I’ve learned from him.”
• • •
IRISH BLESSING: Quite often, when Tiger Woods plays early in the morning, it’s a signal for the crowd to leave by mid-afternoon. But there was a timely pairing that played late into Friday – Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley. Irishmen, the both of them, they each won major championships last year and that alone makes them intriguing. The fact that they’re young – McIlroy is 22, Bradley 25 – and seem to have a grasp of how to appeal to the crowds was enticing enough to keep the folks entertained even as dinner hour approached. Making it all the better was this: Each player was on his game. In shooting 67 to push to 7-under 133, McIlroy made just one bogey against four birdies, three of them coming on the final five holes. Bradley, meanwhile, hiccuped his way to three bogeys, but he made five birdies, shot 68 and at 5-under 135 is joint eighth, just three off the lead.
• • •
ADD TWO AT THE START: You are one bad swing from a double-bogey at nearly every hole of PGA National, given that there’s water everywhere. The first hole would seemingly be an exception to that . . . just don’t tell Sean O’Hair. Having opened with a 70, O’Hair was hoping for a quick start to Round 2 when he pulled his tee shot wide left, hit his second shot wide right, and made a painful double-bogey. It came on the heels of a range session that he said wasn’t very good and he carried a bad comfort zone onto the first tee. “My caddie (Brian Smith) told me at the second tee to simplify things and that cleared my head,” said O’Hair. Clearly, the advice helped, because he held things together, then birdied three of the last six holes to shoot 1-under 69 and get himself into a better frame of mind for the weekend. “I feel it coming. I am so close,” said O’Hair, who has collected a check in each of his four starts. “I just have to stay patient.”
• • •
SHORT SHOTS: Anthony Kim backed up a 70 with a 69 to get halfway home in 1 under, his first cut made in five starts . . . . . Tommy Gainey withdrew after having shot 76 in Round 1 . . . . . Mike Weir’s hard road back continued. He made a double-bogey at the par-5 18th to close out trips of 75-78 to miss yet another cut. With his last-ditch effort to get his card via the full medical exemption list, Weir is at the mercy of sponsor’s exemptions . . . . . Ouch! Monday qualifier Bo Hoag followed Thursday’s 69 in afternoon with an 81 in benign morning conditions to miss the cut . . . . . David Duval had his second straight 74 and has missed the cut in all four starts this year . . . . . Making his 26th straight start in the Honda Classic, Mark Calcavecchia shot 73-74 and missed the cut . . . . . Davis Love isn’t the only Ryder Cup captain making news. Europe’s leader, Jose Maria Olazabal, birdied four of his final 12 holes to shoot 67 and get to the halfway pole at level par, easily making the cut.