Tucker finds new path for McDowell

By Brian Keogh

Tiger Woods once called David Howell 'The Cool Dude'.

Now get ready for Cool Dude II in the shape of Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

The pair are coached by Clive Tucker and the English guru is so amazed by the similarities between the ISM stablemates that he almost finds it scary.

Both men turned to Tucker at the age of 27 and both were in the doldrums.

But after watching Howell blaze a trail up the world rankings since they joined forces, Tucker believes that Portrush powerhouse McDowell can follow suit and join his 'twin' at the top of the game.

Tucker said: "He really is another David Howell in almost every way. They both came to me when they were 27, floundering around with their games and both with tremendous backgrounds.

"So I can see Graeme doing very well, just as David has done well, because he he is so driven to getting the most out of his talent."

Tucker has coached many of Europe's greats from Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke to Luke Donald and women's ace Karen Stupples.

But he has been smitten by Portrush man McDowell, who split with former coach Claude Harmon last November with his game in tatters.

Tucker isn't promising an overnight miracle for the Ulster kid whose career has yo-yoed between the sublime and the ridiculous over the past five seasons.

While he won in Europe in 2002 and 2004 and earned his PGA Tour card in double quick time, there have been plenty of lows too, especially over the past 12 months.

From a high of 38th in the world two years ago, when he almost won at Bay Hill, McDowell has since lost his PGA Tour card and slumped to 135th and out of all the WGC events.

There have been plenty of false dawns in the meantime, including the first round lead at last year's Open and this year's Dubai Desert Classic.

Tucker believes it will take time to 'fix' a player he regards as one of the most talented he has ever seen.

But after helping Howell soar into world's top ten for a brief period last year, the Mannings Heath teacher reckons he can do the same for Ireland's great white hope.

And McDowell obviously hopes so too, after noticing remarkable similarities between himself and the Ryder Cup ace from Swindon.

Tucker explained: "We got together because in Graeme's mind there is a similarity between his swing and David Howell's, who I have been working with for the past four or five years.

"Both take the shaft away off line and then have to alter the shaft plane coming back to the ball. And although they both go about it rather differently there are a lot of similarities between the two.

"What you notice most about Graeme is that he has no fear whatsoever about going low. When he gets to six under, he is only thinking about getting to seven under and so on.

"But for Graeme to achieve the level of consistency he needs to play at the highest level, it is not going to happen overnight.

"He has shown signs of change far more quickly that I expected. But the downside is that the golf course is a very different place to the practice ground and it is very tough to take what you have practised on the range into competition."

Tucker and McDowell joined forces in November last year and believe they are already on the right track.

But Tucker revealed that things were far worse than McDowell might admit publicly and that there is a lot of hard work ahead.

He explained: "It's really hard to say what is the strongest and weakest part of his game. He came to me in a bit of a poor state.

"What I saw in Graeme, in terms of his full swing, was far too much spin on the ball which meant he hit far too strong a draw.

"He just couldn't control that and it would turn into a hook two or three times a round and lead to bogeys and double bogeys.

"To be honest, I told Graeme that I saw flaws in most of his game. I try to give him as many positives as possible but when I was over in Orlando I noticed he was very, very poor on left to right putts.

"Having said that, he turned that around very quickly and actually led the putting stats in Qatar, where he finished fourth.

"His intelligence hasn't surprised me but what has been a revelation is the quality of the feedback he is able to give me.

"He comes up with his own ideas, which is great because part of my technique as a coach is to get the player to tell me what the answer is. He's great at that, which is pleasant to see. He picks up on things really fast."

McDowell has taken time off to rest after hopping from the Middle East to Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand in a exercise his caddie described as "schedule suicide."

No doubt he's trying to keep his cool and getting ready to do a Howell over the next few years and fulfill his obvious potential.