Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Graeme McDowell has eye on more major wins

Graeme McDowell and Kristin Stape wedding
Graeme McDowell and Kristin Stape wedding

Graeme McDowell needs a calculator to count his blessings. They go far beyond the dozen tournament victories and more than £19million prize money amassed in 12 years pursuing his favourite pastime as a professional.

With a beautiful new bride on his arm; that Major title in his trophy cabinet; a swathe of blue-chip companies in his sponsorship portfolio; a flourishing charity foundation to his name; and fresh business ventures to excite him, especially the Nona Blue Bistro in Orlando, McDowell's living the good life.

The greatest gift, however, is that he knows it.

The 34-year-old Portrush native's determination to put his fame and fortune to best use, while still engaged in the pursuit of sporting excellence, is an example to rising stars in any arena.

"I pinch myself sometimes," admits McDowell, who this week brings his competitive season to a close with the defence of his title at Tiger's World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Southern California.

Looking back at 12 months of incredible incident and achievement on and off the golf course, he says: "There have been a lot of fun distractions in my life this year.

"Along with getting married, moving into our new home and finding balance in my world, there's been the restaurant, other business ventures and, of course, the foundation stuff," he explains.

McDowell smiles at the mention of an emotional switchback last summer, when he soared to victory three times and slumped to five missed cuts in an astonishing eight-tournament spell.

"That's golf, you take the rough with the smooth," he shrugs. "There's been some nice smooth this year and a bit of rough. You take it, you learn from it and you move on.

"I learned a lot this year. I learned a lot about scheduling," McDowell explains. "You always learn a lot about scheduling. It's an art form, an ever-changing landscape.

"My life has changed a lot over the last few years, so my schedule has to change. I'm married, based in Orlando, I have new priorities in life."

Interesting to see a Tweet last week from McDowell looking forward to 'Movie night' with Kristin (pictured) in the Lake Nona home he built and, as an interior designer of high repute in her native Florida, she fitted out.

"Of course, I've new priorities," McDowell says. "Spending time with my wife and hopefully building our own family is a priority. Golf is still a massive priority, but I don't want to be away from home for five weeks any more, travelling around the world.

"Do I want to play in the best events in the world as often as I can?" he asks. "Of course I do. And I want to be in the best condition playing them. Balancing both the European and US Tours and getting it right is vital."

THE movie McDowell and wife Kirstin watched at home the other night was 'Man of Steel,' a moniker which wouldn't look out of place on his golf locker.

European captain Paul McGinley recalls his Monday afternoon encounter with the barrel-chested Ulsterman at the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Having won the Welsh Open at Celtic Manor three months earlier and famously following up with victory at the US Open in Pebble Beach, McDowell was sent out against Hunter Mahan in the final singles match.

Following the game as one of Colin Montgomerie's assistants, McGinley was interested to observe McDowell taking a hard look at the scoreboard as he waited for his American opponent to putt out on the 10th green.

"As he turned and headed for the next tee, Graeme smiled at me and said: 'I've got a feeling this is going to come down to me, Mac. What do you think?' I said 'maybe' and left it at that," McGinley explains.

"The smile said it all. It wasn't an 'I'm going to win,' Poulter-type smile. It was just the look of a player who was fully clued-in and ready for any eventuality the occasion might bring."

Of course, after an astonishing fightback by the American team, Europe's 'Man of Steel' would break their hearts. First McDowell holed a sensational serpentine putt on 16 to extend his lead before Mahan duffed a chip at 17 to hand back the Ryder Cup."

McGinley has the highest regard for McDowell as a man to have by one's side in a tight corner and "a consummate professional".

He may not be the longest hitter and, like the great Lee Trevino, has a slightly idiosyncratic swing, but McGinley admires, above all else, McDowell's ability to maximise his strengths.

"The word I use to describe Graeme is 'smart.' He's figured himself out very well as a golfer and his thinking is clear when it comes to what he needs to do," the Dubliner says.

"Knowing yourself well, recognising your strengths and playing to them is hugely important. In that regard, he's very reminiscent of Padraig Harrington at his best."

McGinley then paid McDowell the ultimate compliment: "Looking back, I'd love to have been more like Graeme and to have known myself better as a golfer.

"Not to have been so concerned with trying to figure out the game or what everyone else was doing, but simply playing to my own strengths. That's a great way to be."

The European captain also saluted McDowell for surrounding himself with a first class team, from his long-standing caddie Ken Comboy, through his coach Pete Cowen all the way across the spectrum to his clothing range at G-Mac Kartel.

Can he win again at the Majors? "Put it this way," McGinley concludes. "Only a fool would bet against Graeme McDowell winning another Major."

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