Graeme McDowell will be helped by an imminent change in the membership requirements on the European Tour but in the numbers game that is professional golf and business, his PGA Tour career is his priority simply because it pays better.
The Portrush native's PGA Tour exemption runs out at the end of the 2015-16 season and while he's now outside the Top 50 in the world and could struggle to make the Ryder Cup team, hanging on to his PGA Tour membership is clearly the Orlando resident's top priority
“My playing privileges on this side of the Atlantic are more important to me than my playing privileges on the European Tour, simply because when you boil it all down and look at it from a purely monetary point of view, I want to be employed in the best possible job I can,” McDowell said at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico, the first of two 2015-16 PGA Tour starts he'll make before Christmas.
“The European Tour means a lot to me. I’m very proud of it, I’m very loyal to it. The Ryder Cup is really important to me. But making a living is what it’s all about.”
New European Tour Chief Executive, Keith Pelley, is preparing to announce changes in the minimum membership requirements that would be good news for players like McDowell or Luke Donald.
Pelley's plan is reportedly to reduced the minimum from 13 events, including the majors and the four World Golf Championships to a new minimum of five starts, not including those limited-field tournaments.
“It takes pressure off a guy like me,” said McDowell, who played 11 European Tour events, excluding the majors and WGCs, this year.
“If the worst-case scenario happens and I’m not back in the top 50 by the middle of next year, I’m going to have some serious number problems in Europe.”
Down 70 places from 15th to 85th in the world since December 31 last, McDowell explained why he's decided to play two 2015-16 PGA Tour events this month rather than shut down and regroup for 2016
"I’ve got to put this year behind me and start moving forwardI’ve got to get some numbers under my belt, I’ve got to start playing a little bit. That was probably my main motivation,” he said.
His five-year exemption for winning the 2010 US Open was extended by another year (to the end of 2016) because he won the 2013 RBC Heritage during that five-year stretch.
Having finished 2015 ranked 160th in the FedExCup, he would have lost his card without that exemption and may have been forced to rely on his haul of €12.1m in career money in the US.
McDowell said in Turkey that it while he'd love to play, it would not be the end of the world if he failed to qualify for the Masters at Augusta National next year, a course that doesn't suit him.
He's more worried about trying to get back into he world's Top 64 who play the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. If he can do that, he can make the Top 50 who qualify for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral.
“I need to play more golf courses where I feel like if I play well, I will contend,” he said. “Events like Mayakoba, McGladrey [his next start after Mayakoba] and into the new year, L.A., Honda, Tampa, stuff like that.
"That’s what got me to the position to win a major championship, and that’s where I’ve got to go back to basics and start playing more golf, competing and winning tournaments again and get my confidence back.”
McDowell's driving and putting held him back this year with his lack of accuracy off the tee putting huge pressure on the rest of his game, especially his putting.
First on the PGA Tour in 2014 for Strokes Gained Putting with 0.886, he was just inside the Top 100 at 0.042 this year.
Most tellingly of all, his stroke average fell from 69.642 to 71.470, the equivalent of more than 7.3 strokes per 72 hole event.
McDowell has many commercial interests in the US, including the promotion of GAME GOLF LIVE, "the industry’s first wearable, real-time shot tracker for both iOS and Android smartphone platforms."
The launch of GAME GOLF LIVE follows the original GAME GOLF Classic product, which was first launched in the UK and Ireland in 2014.
GAME GOLF Classic was the first wearable device and integrated a software platform which tracked and captured real performance data and displayed players’ rounds in a dynamic and socially driven interface. It is also the only wearable technology product that collects data and statistics that is “Permitted Under the Rules of Golf” by the R&A and USGA*.
*GAME GOLF LIVE is permissible under the rules of golf for use in competition when not used in conjunction with the mobile app.