McDowell hails caddie in Sandwich comeback

Caddie Ken Comboy earned his keep at Sandwich on Thursday. (Photo Eoin Clarke/Golffile 2011Graeme McDowell confessed that his caddie talked him down off the ledge as he went from zero to hero to keep his Open hopes alive.

The former US Open champion was ready to explode as he made a horrific start, crashing to three over early on following a double bogey at the first and a bogey at the fifth.

But with bagman Ken Comboy whispering words of encouragement, G-Mac racked up six birdies in his next 12 holes, storming home in a best-of-the-day 31 to card a two under 68 and finish the day tied for sixth with Darren Clarke.

Relieved not to blow his Claret Jug dreams, McDowell said: “You’ve got to really rely on your caddie and I’ve got to thank him a little bit out there today for keeping me in the moment because my head was spinning after a few holes.  

“I really wasn’t feeling particularly settled, wasn’t feeling comfortable. I had a great preparation for this Open and four swings later up the first fairway my head is spinning.  

“I guess maybe four or five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to turn that around, but I’m a little bit more of an experienced player nowadays.  

“I was able to hang in there and keep myself well in the tournament and give myself a great weekend, hopefully in prospect.”

In rough off the tee, he sailed miles through the green into TV cables and then duffed his third just a few yards before taking three more to get down for a nasty six.

He could easily have dropped at least one shot at the second when he again found rough of the tee and came up short of the green with his approach.

But he holed a 10 footer for par and while he bogeyed the fifth after a poor chip ran through the green, he was relieved to turn his day around.

Reflecting on his gutsy comeback, McDowell said: “The first just completely rocked me; it really did.  Like I said, my caddie keeps me on the straight and narrow and tries to say good things to me.

“It’s not that I really want to listen sometimes, but he works hard trying to talk me in off the ledge as we call it.  And he did that well today a few times.”

As the wind abated, McDowell’s head cleared and he took advantage with the putter for the first time all season.

And he revealed that his putter has been so cold that he made so changes to the weapon that brought him Ryder Cup and US Open glory last term in the hope that it would regain some of its magic.

McDowell said: “I put a little bit more weight on the sole, and I changed the grip after about two years.  

“There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears on the grip.  I didn’t want to change it but I haven’t been putting all that well lately and I wanted to try to inject a little bit of magic back into the putter.  

“So I made a few small changes to it and it was feeling a lot more solid, so it was nice to make some putts today.”

He must have wondered if he’d made a mistake after that nightmare start but was proud to hang in and turn a potential disaster into a roaring success.

He said: “I got off to just a horrible start.  Three days’ perfect preparation, nice warmup this morning, walk onto the first tee and just put one of the worst swings of the week on it.  

“My second shot all I could do was just hit it over the back, and I just pulled a horrible lie.  It was absolute, pure sand back there.  I make double and walk to the second tee wondering what the hell just happened.

“But I managed to hang in there and made a great putt on the second which really settled me down.  After that it was about hanging tough.  

“We really got lucky with the draw.  The wind laid down and I had a chance to make a score on the back nine, which I did.”

He had eight single putts and holed another from off the green and now believes he’s got a great chance of challenging for the title if he can keep his composure on a tough track.

He said: “The putter kept me in there.  I holed some nice putts to really keep my round on the rails, and like I say, with the wind subsiding, it gave me a chance to score.  

“So back in 31 was a pretty nice effort and should make dinner taste pretty good.”

His comeback began when he birdied the sixth and seventh to get back to one over and while he was bunkered at the eighth and missed from seven feet for par, he refused to give up.

After canning a 30 footer for birdie at the 12th, he knocked in a 20 footer at the 13th to get back to level and then birdied the last two holes from six feet and four feet respectively.

Had things gone badly, he confessed that he would have headed for the bar to drown his sorrows after his round.

But following his great comeback he opted for some practice instead followed by a quiet, family dinner.

He beamed: “The way we were going after the first three or four holes there might have been a few medicinal cold beers needed.  But thankfully I managed to get things back on track

“There’s the old cliché that says you can’t win it today, you can only lose it, and I tried to lose it and I managed to hang in there.  

“I’m in a great position. So I have to go out tomorrow morning and try and hang tough and try to have a good weekend.”