Graeme McDowell is not the kind of guy to wish his life away. But after shooting in the 80’s for the third time in what has been a disappointing follow up to his incredible 2010 season, he could be forgiven for looking ahead to his Christmas holidays.
The world No 15 failed to post a birdie in a 10-over par 81 in the third round of the Andalucía Masters at Valderrama, where he is defending champion.
“I love how special a place it is, but hate how tough it can be,” McDowell wrote on his blog at the start of the week. “When the wind is up, well, good luck.”
After opening with a brace of two over 73’s, McDowell revealed that he was struggling with his swing.
“I’m not in control of my golf ball at all right now,” he told the Irish Independent. “I’m scared to aim at the right side of the golf course because I can’t hit my draw very well and I’m scared to aim at the left because my fade’s not there all the time. I’m battling all the way. It’s very, very close but I just can’t seem to hit the switch.”
Needing a stellar round to get close to the leaders, little appeared to change on moving day and his movement was of the backwards variety as he ended the day tied for 51st in the 54-man field on 14 over.
Out in four over, he doubled the 12th and bogeyed the next four as he hit just five fairways and six greens and took 31 putts.
McDowell’s difficulties this season can be attributed in some part to post-major anxiety. When a golfer wins his first major, he often tries too hard. No doubt he will recalling Michael Campbell’s words again: “… no one actually ever tells you how to get back down from the peak of Everest.”
Sergio Garcia is still trying to scale his Everest and win a major but for now he’s chasing back-to-back wins and a first Spanish triumph at Valderrama.
The 31-year old, who ended a three-year drought with an 11-shot win in the Castellon Masters last week, carded a 67 to move to shots clear of compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Sweden’s Christian Nilsson (65) on six under par.
Shane Lowry is the leading Irishman, seven strokes behind Garcia on one-over par but handily placed in joint sixth after firing three birdies and three bogeys in a level par 71.
Ranked 63rd in the Race to Dubai, a top five finish would be more than enough to catapult the 24-year old into the top 60 who will qualify for December’s Dubai World Championship.
Peter Lawrie is 54th in the Race for those top 60 places but he lost important ground in round three at Valderrama when failed to make a birdie in a five over 76 that sent him from sixth overnight to tied 26th on six over.
As for McDowell, the 32-year old from Portrush has plenty of golf to play before he can tuck into his Christmas pudding.
Following next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, he will tee it up in the the Barclays Singapore Open, the Dunlop Phoenix (Japan), the Omega Mission Hills World Cup (with Rory McIlroy), the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City and the Dubai World Championship.
No doubt he and his coaches Clive Tucker and Pete Cowen will be keen to get a handle on his swing glitches before he shuts things down for the winter. A good long break, which he failed to take last year, might just do him the power of good.