Graeme McDowell can’t wait to attack the Blue Monster this week after a course recording equalling, six under par 64 gave him a share of sixth place in the Honda Classic and a $184,537 payday.
As South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini hit a 70 win by a shot on nine under par from Korea’s YE Yang (66), McDowell hit six birdies to finish seven behind on two under par and head into this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral with his confidence on the rise.
The world No 4 played the Bear Trap 15th, 16th and 17th holes at PGA National in one under for the week - five shots better than the field average - and now he’s ready to throttle the Blue Monster.
Explaining his attacking mindeset in the final round after fixing his swing on Friday afternoon, McDowell said: “I was just in a mood where I wanted to go out and get some confidence in the bank for next week and not put any pressure on myself. It’s amazing sometimes when you don’t put pressure on yourself, good scores can come.
“I was happy to play the Bear Trap one under par for the week, that was pretty huge. I didn’t strike it my best but kept the ball in play most of the week.”
With the wind fading and turning around from the north to the south, the course played very differently to the first three days with the finishing holes all downwind.
McDowell rediscovered his swing on the range on Friday evening, realising that he was standing too close to the ball. And after a great 70 in round three left him tied for 30th on four over, he went to the turn in 33, getting up and down from sand at the par-five third before holing a 15 footer for birdie at the tough sixth.
Back to two over, McDowell then holed a 45 footer for birdie at the 11th and an 11 footer at the 13th to get back to even par before picking up two more shots on the last two holes.
At the 191-yard 17th he went to school on Chad Campbell’s line, holing a 35 footer to go five under for the day before set up a shot at the course record at the last.
Playing downwind, McDowell had just over 230 yards to a front pin which was tucked just beyond a bunker. But he hit a towering cut with a three-hybrid that came down softly, leaving him with a 25 footer for an eagle three and a course record 63.
The putt never had a chance but McDowell was still delighted with his day’s work and a move from 28th to 21st in the FedExCup standings.
Still ranked fourth in the latest world rankings, he added: “If I was to sum the week up I would probably call it a good short game week. I hung in there really well on Thursday and Friday when I didn’t play my best tee to green.
“I was a little frustrated Thursday and Friday. I have been working so hard on my short game the last few weeks and I went to Phoenix (Tucson) and seemed to leave my long game in Orlando.
“I didn’t have my best week last week but I spent a lot of time on the range and the chipping green and that really paid off this week. Again, Thursday and Friday you could strike it well and miss a lot of greens.
“I didn’t strike it well and missed a lot of greens and managed to get up and down 100 percent from the sand. This was the week to have short game but you needed to have long game as well.”
Rory McIlroy was undone by a nightmare run through the Bear Trap in Saturday’s high winds, where he made three double bogeys in a row for a 77 before closing with a roller coaster 75.
After finishing tied for 70th on 16 over par, McIlroy said: “I played great on Saturday until those three holes really ruined me and that was sort of it.
“I just find it difficult to score in high winds. I still think I can hit good shots but it is just the scoring element that I find quite tough.
“I spin it a lot, which probably doesn’t help. But we only play in high winds twice or three times a year so I don’t think it is any cause for concern.”