Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

McDowell sees his Sawgrass lead melt in sunshine

Falling short: Graeme McDowell couldn't win the 'fifth major'

Third-round leader Graeme McDowell was forced to reflect on what might have been last night after failing to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

The US Open champion was hopeful of finishing on top in golf's unofficial fifth major but a disappointing final round saw his dream fade away.

The Portrush man's collapse wasn't as painful or dramatic as his fellow countryman Rory McIlroy at the US Masters, but McDowell will still be cursing a missed opportunity.

McDowell and Luke Donald, wearing navy blue in memory of the late Seve Ballesteros, were both aiming to become the third European winner of golf's richest event - over £1million to the champion - in four years after Sergio Garcia in 2008 and Henrik Stenson 12 months later.

However, three costly mistakes gave fresh encouragement to his closest rivals as McDowell struggled to handle the heat.

After the bonus of a 50-foot birdie putt on the difficult fifth hole, he carved his next shot into the trees. Then, after bogeying that hole, he hooked his drive down the seventh into the lake and dropped another shot.

Worse was to come. Going for the green in two on the long ninth he hooked again into a small bush and, seeing no better option than to have a thrash at the ball, moved it only a few feet.

The next shot found rough and although he got up and down it meant a bogey six and an outward 38 that left him three behind.

The day started with the completion of the third round and when McDowell birdied the 16th and 17th after two superb shots he was six under for the round and three clear.

But he had a bad break on the last when his approach kicked off the side of a mound across the green and into the lake for a double bogey six.

His final round featured dropped shots at the sixth, seventh, ninth,14th and 15th.

Eight under for the tournament but four over for his last round through 15 holes, McDowell found himself trailing leader, American David Toms by five shots.

Toms left fans wondering how the 2001 US PGA winner had gone over five years without a victory and had fallen to 75th in the world.

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