McDowell bucks the Kapalua trend of first-time struggle
Kapalua: First-time players often struggle in the PGA Tour`s season-opening event at the Kapalua Resort but US Open champion Graeme McDowell has flourished this week.
Despite launching his 2011 campaign with new clubs in his bag, the Northern Irishman will go into Sunday`s final round of the Tournament of Champions in a tie for sixth, just six shots off the lead.
"All in all, I`m very happy the way I`ve played this week coming out here with some new stuff in the bag," McDowell told reporters after carding a five-under-par 68 in tricky winds on Saturday.
"I was just anxious to come here for the first time and see what was going on really. I`ve struck the ball very well, especially my iron play."
McDowell, who has switched his golf club manufacturer from Callaway to Srixon, felt the large greens on Kapalua`s Plantation Course posed the biggest problem for first-time players.
"These greens will definitely leave you scratching your head a few times," he said after taking 29 putts on Saturday. "A lot of first-timers can kind of go: `This is a bit weird this place.` It just takes a bit of knowing."
"I can see why guys continue to play well here, guys who have played well in the past -- the (Stuart) Applebys, the (Jim) Furyks and the (Geoff) Ogilvys.
"Once you get your head around the slopes, the grain and the tendencies of this golf course, I can understand that you can continue to come back and play well here."
McDowell`s one frustration over the last two days has been his failure to shoot lower scores on the back nine.
"I have played the front nine pretty well but I haven`t played these last five or six holes all that well," he said after coming home in two-under 35.
"There are two par-fives coming in and a couple of short par fours and I haven`t taken advantage. Today I missed a short one on 14, three-putted 15, had a chance of 16 which I didn`t take and birdied the hardest hole on the way in -- 17."
McDowell ended last year with a hectic flourish, criss-crossing several time zones as he played seven tournaments in as many weeks -- the last of them the Chevron World Challenge where he beat host Tiger Woods in a playoff.
He will next play in the European Tour`s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in two weeks` time before taking a month off to recharge his batteries.
"In many ways, I am seeing this as putting an end to the end of last year," he said. "I just feel like I am continuing on. Abu Dhabi will signal the end of something for me."
"I will then try to re-set and re-charge, put the feet up and rest, get into the gym and prepare myself for the season because Christmas was over in a flash and I was back on the horse again before I knew it. I am looking forward to some time off."