Graeme McDowell insists he’s not about to hit the panic button despite losing ground to Race to Dubai front-runner Henrik Stenson on the opening day of the final event of the season.
McDowell birdied three holes in succession from the 14th to finish with a level par 72, four shots behind Stenson and six behind Spain’s Alejandro Canizares, who heads the DP World Tour Championship with a six under par 66.
Canizares was thankful his pre-event preparations were not seriously disrupted when his girlfriend was denied a seat aboard Sunday night’s Turkish Airlines charter flight to the UAE. It was only through the intervention of Tour officials in Dubai, and in cooperation with UAE immigration officers, she was allowed on the flight, with Canizares confessing he had forgotten, for a second occasion en route to the UAE, to apply for a visa for her.
McDowell struggled on the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course before a three-hole stretch of brilliance starting at 14.
“I had just three-whacked it on 13 for bogey, which was very frustrating, so it could have been a very disappointing day if I hadn’t made those three birdies coming in but no panic,” McDowell said.
“I feel as though I got the best out of my game and I am only four behind Henrik so I count myself very lucky, I suppose. I’m in the middle of the pack but there is still a long way to go and a lot can happen over 54 holes.
“But there’s one thing I know and that is I’ve won many tournaments from this situation and all I can do is control my own golf ball. I just need to get hot on the greens and trust my blade.”
Those following Rory McIlroy were seemingly divided between watching what the double Major winner was doing inside the ropes and also keeping the other eye on his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki.
“Walking off the course with a score in the 60s would have felt much better then walking off with a 71,” he said. “So, I’m a little disappointed with that but then ball-striking-wise the game is really, really good. It’s just a case of taking more of the chances I’m giving myself.”
However McIlroy’s chat with journalists ended when asked where on the course he was when the RAF’s Red Arrows performed a fly past tailing blue, white and red smoke, and part of Dubai Air Show celebrations.
“It was really cool seeing the Red Arrows, and I was on the 17th tee with a five-iron in my hand,” he said. McIlroy’s tee shot then landed in a bunker that prompted a question: “Did the wind take it?”
“Pretty much,” was McIlroy’s response that led to another question: “So you didn’t observe the jet trail from the Red Arrows?”
The conversation thus ended with McIlroy remarking: “And on that note I’ll leave you.”
Shane Lowry teed-up sporting a new sponsor’s logo that had the Clara golfer reluctantly climbing aboard a camel at Wednesday afternoon’s photo shoot.
“I hear the camel is in hospital today with bad knees after having me aboard!” said Lowry, breaking out in loud laughter.
“I have to say also I needed a change of underwear. But as for my round, I’m doing okay and a 71 is not the worst start in the world, though I feel as though I could have done a lot better, including not having two three-putts coming in.”
Meanwhile the European Tour confirmed the full 2014 Race to Dubai schedule will be announced on Sunday morning but with ‘TBC’ appearing next to the June 19 start for the Irish Open.
Keith Waters, Director of International Policy indicated the Tour is still looking to finalise a venue. However it seems the choice of venue is either the O’Meara Course at Carton House or Fota Island which hosted the 2001 and 2002 Murphys Irish Open.
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