Graeme McDowell | Player Profile | Nedbank Golf Challengeon October 20, 2011
For a country with just under 2 million people, Northern Ireland has done a fine job of dominating world golf of late. And Graeme McDowell has been one of their flagbearers. His eight victories as a professional was highlighted by his US Open triumph at Pebble Beach last year, and with that came a significant number of firsts.
McDowell became the first Northern Irishman to win the US Open, as well as the first European winner of this Major since Tony Jacklin in 1970, the first player from the United Kingdom to win a Major since Paul Lawrie won the Open in 1999, and the first Northern Irishman to win any Major since Fred Daly won the 1947 Open.
But perhaps even more significant than all of this is that McDowell won on Father’s Day, and shared an emotional hug with his father Kenny, with whom he shares a very close bond that is described as, “as close as a father and son can possibly get”. Armed with a steely nerve, McDowell took advantage of Dustin Johnson’s final round collapse on a tough Pebble Beach layout. He then outduelled Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els to win his first Major by one stroke over Gregory Havret.
“I think I’ve died and gone to heaven for sure. This can’t be real and I don’t think this will ever sink in,” he said afterwards, quickly adding that he had no intention of becoming a one-Major wonder.
McDowell admits to having the perfect childhood growing up in Portrush, which he describes as “One of the most spectacular pieces of coastline in the world”, and where he owns a penthouse overlooking the sea. He was three years old when he started playing darts, and remains a big fan of the game. But golf was always his true passion. He was coached by his uncle at Rathmore Golf Club and made steady progress through the junior ranks. At the age of 16 he claimed his first big win in the Ulster Boys Championship, and in 2000 he added the Irish Amateur Championship to his growing list of titles.
In 2001 he was a member of the Great Britain and Ireland team that defeated the United States in the Walker Cup. McDowell then did his tour of college duty at the University of Alabama, and in 2002 received the Haskins Award for the most outstanding college golfer in the United States following his six wins that season. That same year McDowell turned professional and made an immediate impact with his victory in the Volvo Scandinavian Masters, beating South Africa’s Trevor Immelman by a single stroke.
He has gone on to win six times on the European Tour, excluding the US Open, and retained his card comfortably every year since 2002.
In 2004 he finished sixth on the Race to Dubai rankings, then fifth in 2008 and a career high of second in 2010.
McDowell’s calmness under pressure was nowhere more evident than during the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales, when he holed the winning five-foot putt on the 17th green to give Europe victory.
McDowell is a man who loves to socialise. He enjoys his wine, good music, sport and is a die-hard Manchester United fan to the extent that he skipped the par-three contest ahead of the 2011 Masters in order to watch a UEFA Champions League match between United and Chelsea.
Although he has a penchant for beating South Africans –first Immelman and then James Kingston in the 2008 Barclays Scottish Open – his love of a good “barbeque” will surely see South African fans warm to him at Sun City this year.
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