Major men head to US Open with work to do
Former US Open winners Graeme McDowell, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will head to Shinnecock Hills with hopes in their hearts - and some demons to overcome.
While Woods had a poor week on the greens, closing with a final round 72 to share of 23rd in the Memorial Tournament, six shots behind play-off winner Bryson DeChambeau, he was first for strokes gained from tee to green and clearly hitting the ball well enough to win another major if he can regain some confidence with the blade.
McIlroy will worry about the swing gremlins that crept in as he slipped to a 74 on Friday to scrape through the cut on the mark.
But he shot weekend rounds of 64 and 69 at Muirfield Village to sneak into a tie for eighth on 11-under par, just four shots behind DeChambeau, Kyle Stanley and Ben An.
The Korean set the clubhouse target at 15-under with a closing 69 and looked on as joint leaders DeChambeau (71) and Stanley (70) both bogeyed the 18th to send the event to a sudden-death playoff.
Stanley bowed out with a bogey at the first extra hole and it was DeChambeau (24) who made up for his three-putt on the 72nd hole by slotting a 12-footer for a winning birdie on the second extra hole for his second PGA Tour victory.
On the shores of Lake Garda, McDowell recorded his best finish since he was fourth in the British Masters 18 months ago when he tied for fifth behind Thorbjorn Olesen in the $7m Italian Open.
The Dane denied a charging Francesco Molinari a third Italian Open when he made a clutch eight-foot par putt on the final green to win by a stroke on 22-under par.
The pair traded blows all afternoon with the Italian, who was seeking back-to-back wins after his triumph in the BMW PGA at Wentworth, holing a 30 footer for birdie at the 18th to set the clubhouse target with a six-under 65.
But Olesen kept his nerve, holing out for a seven-under 64, his fifth European Tour title and a cheque for just over €1m.
McDowell's biggest handicap heading to the US Open is that he has not won for two and a half years.
But while he admitted he was too conservative in the third round and blew himself out of the tournament with a level par 71, his seven-under 64 yesterday, coupled with his 12th place finish at Wentworth, is a major boost.
With the Ryder Cup vice-captaincy easing the pressure on his shoulders, he believes he can still push for a fifth appearance as a player and a big performance at Shinnecock Hills would be no surprise given his experience.
"Always nice to go low on Sundays, and that's the X-factor that's been missing in my game a little bit the last few years really," the 2010 US Open champion said.
"Days like today are really important. It really pours a lot of confidence and belief back into the game.
"As someone said earlier, since I got announced as vice-captain, I've never looked more likely to be on the team than I have the last two weeks.
"It's ironic, but listen, being a player on the Ryder Cup Team in France this year is still a huge goal of mine this summer and I think it's achievable, still.
"It's going to require a lot of great golf. There's a lot of great players ahead of me. But if I can play pressure-free golf and enjoy my golf the way I have the last few weeks, I think I can give it a run."
Paul Dunne made eight birdies in a 68 to finish tied for 30th on 11-under, one stroke ahead of Pádraig Harrington, who also shot three-under yesterday to finish tied 36th.
Derry's Ruaidhri McGee shot a pair of six-under 65s at the weekend to tie for fourth in the Swiss Challenge in Lucerne, eight strokes behind wire-to-wire winner Marcel Schneider on 14-under par.
The German (28) closed with a four-under 67 to win by six strokes with Tullamore's Stuart Grehan tied for 33rd on seven-under after a 74 and Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin 63rd on one-under after a 70.
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley tied for fourth in the Staysure Tour's Shipco Masters in Denmark, four shots behind winner Colin Montgomerie on seven-under par.
The Scot closed with a five-under 67 to win by three shots on 11-under from Paul Eales and Barry Lane as Des Smyth (74) tied for 17th on two-under.
Headfort's Brendan McGovern was tied 44th after an 81 featuring a sextuple bogey nine at the tough, 200-yard par-three fifth with Philip Walton 53rd after a 77 at Simon's Golf Club.