Graeme McDowell faces battle to be fit for Masters

Graeme McDowell remains confident of taking his place in next fortnight’s Masters despite withdrawing with a lower left ankle injury after nine holes of the Valero Texas Open.

Graeme McDowell faces battle to be fit for Masters

McDowell was clearly struggling with the injury to be five over par in the bright but very windy conditions on the TPC San Antonio course. The former U.S. Open champion had strained muscles in his ankle while practising earlier in the week on the Greg Norman designed course.

He had first thought of withdrawing from Wednesday’s Pro-Am and despite having the ankle heavily strapped and taking pain-killers along with anti-inflamatories, McDowell completed the long five-and-a-hour event ending into the early evening. McDowell then sought overnight treatment on the ankle and again prior to tee off before advising playing partners Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk he could no longer continue.

Accompanied by his caddy Ken Comboy, McDowell was conveyed by motorised buggy to the TPC San Antonio clubhouse where he cleaned out his locker, thanked Tour staff and was heading straight for the nearby San Antonio Airport and a return flight to Orlando. “It’s very disappointing but then in the bigger picture I have to think about the Masters in a fortnight’s time,” he said. “It’s just a little bit of a fatigue injury from practising this week and something new I had been trying in my game with regards to my follow through.

“I very nearly pulled out of the Pro-Am yesterday afternoon but then there’s nothing structurally wrong with my ankle and it’s just that I pulled a tendon down the left side of the shin and calf area.

“So there was just no point in beating myself up so that’s why I informed Dustin and Jim I could not go on. I was not entered into next week’s Shell Houston Open but I have now altered those plans so I am heading home to give the ankle rest and then head to Houston early next week.

“While it was not in my schedule, I will use the Houston Open to get myself ready for Augusta. So withdrawing this morning was just precaution more than anything and that’s all you can read into it.”

Prior to withdrawing McDowell produced four pars and five bogeys including finding water with his second shot at his ninth or the 18th hole of the course, and a hole so similar to the final hole at Jumeriah Estates and the venue each year for the European Tour season-ending DP World Championship. McDowell mentioned it was not the first time he has endured a similar injury in his left ankle. “I’ve had ankle problems in the past and I recall ‘rolling’ my ankle a few times but this was just something that I was really working hard in rotating on my left side,” he said.

“I hit a lot of balls on the range this week and basically I was just asking my left ankle to something a little different. Then when I started walking on it during the Pro-Am yesterday it started flaring up.

“I was hoping it would be okay today but it was just getting too uncomfortable and coupled with the tough conditions out there it just felt like a bit of a lost cause out there.” The withdrawal of McDowell leaves just one Irishman in the field, that being Shane Lowry who was still two-and-a-hours away from teeing off when McDowell left the course.

Meanwhile George Coetzee and Marcel Siem kept their hopes of qualifying for the Masters very much alive on the opening day of the Hassan Trophy at Golf du Palais Royal. Both had the daunting task of knowing only a victory in Morocco would be enough to book a trip to Augusta next month for the first major championship of the year. But they got off to excellent starts yesterday, with South Africa’s Coetzee carding a 67 and Siem a 68 to finish two and three shots respectively behind France’s Adrien Saddier.

Saddier, who was one shot off the lead before the final round of the Madeira Islands Open was cancelled due to bad weather on Sunday, made the most of his sponsor’s invite to card a flawless 65.

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