Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Graeme McDowell is relishing a return to scene of his Ryder debut

In form: Graeme McDowell feels in fine fettle before the US PGA
In form: Graeme McDowell feels in fine fettle before the US PGA

Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell picked up a major boost on Sunday before heading for Valhalla and this week's US PGA.

Mickelson at last shrugged off a nasty strep-throat infection to post a sensational eight-under 62 in the Bridgestone Invitational, his best round of the season, to clinch only his second sub-par finish in 12 years at Firestone.

After complaining on Saturday that his short irons and wedge play "have been pathetic" this season and bemoaning how few birdies he'd landed, Mickelson made a whopping 10 on Sunday after hitting just 11 greens in regulation.

It was the fillip the 44-year-old needed. "I hit the ball very close with a lot of iron shots and it's really good to be going to Valhalla feeling like I have momentum instead of searching for something.

"I am a momentum player," he added. "If I get it going, usually I can keep it up for a stretch. I came here feeling confident after the Scottish Open and the Open but the first two rounds (71 and 73) really threw me off.

"Now the game is starting to click and I'm hoping I can have four good rounds at Valhalla instead of just one."

Mickelson won in Akron in 1996 and had eight straight top-10s here, but this year's five-under aggregate was his only sub-par finish on the South Course since he tied fourth in 2008.

In contrast, McDowell's never looked as comfortable at Firestone as he did over the past weekend.

As he followed-up on Saturday's career-best 66 here with a fabulous bump-and-run for eagle at the second on Sunday, the Portrush native appeared well on course for his first top-20 finish in this event.

McDowell made an impressive Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla in 2008 and relishes this week's return.

"Changes have been made to the golf course and, obviously, it's going to be a different set-up from 2008," the Ulsterman said.

"Yet from what I hear, it's not going to be the longest course in the world which makes me happy for sure.

"These slug-fest Major Championships kind of get old. So nice to play what sounds like it might be a positional type golf course. I'm looking forward to it."

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