“It’s relief right now, but this will not only be kind of a satisfying win, but it will be a springboard win as well. At some point I was going to get tired of messing up, and this week I got tired messing up.”
Graeme McDowell ended a four-year winless drought with a one shot victory at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Graeme McDowell returned to the winners circle on Sunday for the first time in four years with a final round three-under 69 to beat Chris Stroud and Mackenzie Hughes by a shot at 18-under-par.
“It’s been a rough few years,” McDowell said after his first win since the 2015 OHL Classic. “It’s been a grind. On 16 green, I said to myself, ‘You’ve got to do something that’s tournament-winning’. The shot to 17 was tournament-winning level.”
The 39-year-old came into the week with a lot of motivation as he aims to gain momentum while he tries to qualify for this year’s Open Championship in his hometown of Portrush, as well as setting his sights on more FedEx Cup points.
“I said that I was here on a mission, I was here motivated, and the attitude was going to be very, very important this week,” said McDowell. “This one’s a pretty sweet victory. It feels a bit like the victory at Mayakoba… it comes at the end of a long grind. This one’s been coming.”
This win, he said, has given him the confidence he needs to continue to play with some of the world’s best. He said with his playing privileges secured and with a big jump in the FedExCup standings, he’s going to playing much looser moving forward.
“That’s when I play my best, when I’m loose, when I’m just trying to compete every week rather than needing it as badly. I’ve been needing it too much lately and this is going to go a long way to helping me stop needing it and just going out there and just playing golf to try and compete every week. That’s what I’m looking for,” he said. “This is a huge relief, this win. I’ve got to be honest, massive relief.”
McDowell began the round with a one-shot lead and birdied three of his opening four holes, only for Chris Stroud to birdie four in a row from the fourth.
The Northern Irishman picked up another stroke with a birdie on the par-five seventh, but handed one back to the course after failing to get up and down from the green side bunker for par on the ninth – a hole Stroud also bogeyed.
With back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes Stroud took a one shot lead on 19-under par, but he wouldn’t hold it for long.
As the leader made a bogey on the 17th McDowell rolled in a six-footer for birdie to go one clear, and bogeys on the final hole from both players secured McDowell’s status as champion.
Stroud was left to settle as joint runner-up with Mackenzie Hughes, who made seven birdies and a final hole bogey to finish one shot shy of the winner.