McDowell out to kickstart game in PGA Puntacana title defense

Miami (AFP) –

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Graeme McDowell is hoping a return to the Corales Puntacana resort, where he ended a near-four year title drought last year, will jumpstart his game.

"My game needs that little injection of confidence anyway," McDowell admitted this week as he prepared to tee off Thursday in the US PGA Tour event in the Dominican Republic.

The 2010 US Open winner struggled mightily at the US Open at Winged Foot last week, missing the cut after shooting an 80 in the second round.

The 41-year-old expected a vastly different challenge this week.

"As opposed to the US Open last week, this is going to be about making some birdies," McDowell said. "Fifteen- or 20-under par to win down here.

"It's about taking advantage of the opportunities that this course gives you if you drive it well and get aggressive with your iron play.

"And I really putted well here last year, so if I can kind of get the putter ramped back up, enjoy these greens again, I'll hopefully have a good weekend."

McDowell fired a three-under final round of 69 for a 19-under total and a one-shot win over American Chris Stroud and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes last year.

It was his first US PGA Tour title since the Mayakoba Classic in 2015.

"The win last year was pivotal for me and it really kicked me on into the sort of latter part of last year where I played pretty well," McDowell said.

He won a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia to start the 2020 season and was playing well before Covid-19 brought the game to a halt.

McDowell admitted the lengthy break "derailed me a little bit.

"But that's just one of those things," he said. "It's derailing a lot of people in a lot of ways all over the world, so I'm certainly not going to sit here and kind of be resentful."

It's been a different atmosphere as golf returned to action, with spectators largely banned in a bid to prevent any surge in coronavirus cases.

McDowell acknowledged it had been hard to adjust, and he was delighted that a limited number of spectators were to be allowed in designated hospitality areas this week.

"I've missed the old environment a little bit and perhaps this will give me a little bit of a taste of the old stuff again and maybe straighten me back out and maybe get me back on some leaderboards again," he said.