Graeme McDowell has dispelled fears of complacency heading to next month’s US Open after his historic victory in the Volvo World Match-Play Championship in Bulgaria.
McDowell captured his second victory in three tournaments, defeating Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee 2 & 1 in superb cloudless conditions on the Thracian Cliffs course laid on along the Black Sea shoreline.
The new World No. 7 had been two down after four holes but seized on the 43-year old former Thai paratrooper tiring near the turn and then displayed all the hallmarks that has made him such a feared Ryder Cup competitor.
“It’s always fun to be the first Irish name on any trophy and the names on this trophy are just phenomenal — Els, Westwood, Montgomerie, Ballesteros, Norman, Lyle, Faldo, Player and Palmer,” McDowell smiled.
“To thrust yourself into that company is pretty special, and Irish golf is certainly carving niche in world golf at the minute.
“There’s also a curly-haired kid who is pretty good, so anytime I can do something before he does it is never a bad thing.”
McDowell had beaten South African Branden Grace 3& 2 in the morning to reach the final and walked off the 17th some four hours later still looking razor-sharp having played 99 holes over the four days.
McDowell collected a first prize cheque for €800,000 that’s taken him to the lead in the Race to Dubai.
However after one of the best starts to a new season in his 11-year pro career, McDowell’s caddy Ken Comboy is concerned McDowell could head to next month’s US Open with his expectations sky high.
McDowell responded: “Ken is very smart and he’s seen great players go into Majors over-expecting and under-delivering, and that’s why he’s been on my bag for seven years.
“So I’ve now got one event before the US Open and you could say I’m in the form of my life, and going to a US Open where my record speaks for itself, but you can never, never, ever get ahead of yourself in this game.
“As soon as you think you have it nailed, this game kicks you hard and I have learned to realise that and looking to control my expectations going into the Majors.”
Birdies at the second and fourth took Jaidee two up, but he missed from eight feet to go further ahead on the next after McDowell had scrambled a par despite taking a penalty drop from an unplayable lie left of the green.
McDowell won the seventh with a birdie to reduce his deficit but was grateful to see Jaidee miss from six feet on the next to win the hole, while McDowell then holed lengthy par putts on the ninth and 10th to stay in touch.
“The par putts on the fifth, ninth and 10th were huge, they were the turning points,” McDowell admitted.
A superb pitch to two feet on the 12th gave McDowell a winning birdie and got him back on level terms, the momentum firmly with the former US Open champion.
Jaidee pulled his drive into a bush on the 14th and the resulting bogey handed McDowell the lead for the first time, which he increased with a birdie from close range on the 15th.
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