Stiff competition a bigger threat than a stiff back for Tiger — G-Mac

Stiff competition a bigger threat than a stiff back for Tiger — G-Mac
Graeme McDowell speaking at Bay Hill on Wednesday. 

Graeme McDowell speaking at Bay Hill on Wednesday. 

Graeme McDowell admits the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill is more of home event for him than the Irish Open these days.

Married and soon to be the father of a baby girl, the Portrush-born Orlando resident has every reason to be optimistic about his form and his chances at a venue where he finished second in 2005 and again two years ago.

With top-10 finishes in two of his first three strokeplay events of the year and a run to the quarter-finals of the Accenture Match Play in between, he's gotten the very most out of his game through ringcraft and strong putting so far.  On the face of it, it looks like only a matter of time before he pulls all elements of his game together and wins again.

He's always value for money in the press room and on tight tracks where patience is a virtue. And while he's had his troubles in Bay Hill's bunkers in the past, he hit all the right notes in his pre-tournament press conference where he discussed Arnold Palmer's course set up, the hot topic of slow play and whether injury or the competition are the biggest barriers to Tiger Woods in his quest for 18 majors.

On Bay Hill

"The course is in great condition. I played Sunday morning here and it's a different golf course the last three days. The golf course was very firm on Sunday morning but a bit of rain softened the greens up and they are now taking an iron shot. But they will obviously continue to dry up as the weekend goes on. The course is in magnificent shape. Nice amount of rough. I heard a comment about the way Arnie wants us to play — US Open off the tee and Augusta-esque around the greens. And I can see what he is trying to achieve. On Sunday, the firmness and the speed of the greens was very Augusta-esque with these run-offs he's created the last few years. The golf course is pretty tight off the tee and there's a nice amount of rough. I've always enjoyed the way this golf course sets up for me. I've had a couple of good years here. It's basically my home event these days. Used to be the Irish Open was my home event, this is home these days. It was the start of my PGA Tour career here in 2005, finishing second and it's a tournament I've enjoyed ever since then. Lots of people out there, the sun's going to shine. Looks like it's going to be a fun weekend and I'm just hoping to compete."

McDowell's record at Bay Hill

  • 2013 T45 72 74 75 69 +2
  • 2012 2nd 72 63 71 74 -8
  • 2011 Cut 80 73 +9
  • 2010 Cut 71 76 +3
  • 2009 T40 71 69 73 74 +7
  • 2005 T2 69 73 70 66 -10

Can Tiger Woods win 18 majors? "It's going to be hard"

“Winning major championships is getting harder and harder for everyone, including the best player maybe that’s ever lived, in Tiger. He’s got more than just his body to be fighting. There’s a lot of great players in the world now. Everyone is getting better.”

Who's Tiger's biggest rival? The competition or his body?

“Maybe 70/30 - 70 being field, 30 being body. It’s tough to say. He never ceases to amaze us.... You’d never put anything past him. He could prove us all wrong and show up at Augusta, win by 10 and you guys will be back to the keyboards and waxing lyrical, and away we go again. Who knows?”

On slow play

"I think the club golfer spends too much time watching us on TV and thinks that you’ve got to look at the putt from 360 degrees and have eight practice strokes and take your time over every shot you hit. We have very methodical pre-shot routines. We pay sports psychologists thousands to teach us these methodical pre-shot routines.

"Going on the clock is inevitable. I work … to make sure that my routine fits into that window as much as possible, so that when I’m on the clock I’m comfortable and it’s not going to affect my game. Because it is inevitable... We are trying to fix this [slow play]problem, this kind of illness that the game has. It’s hard to do. Every now and again a guy is going to get singled out unfairly. But unfortunately, we have to look at the problem holistically as opposed to looking at each individual player. Of course we know who the slow players are, we know who the fast players are. It’s a tough problem to execute and penalize – it’s tough to single out guys."