Report as published in Irish Times today. Golf: Graeme McDowell’s year just gets better and better after he won the war of attrition against two fellow Irishmen to land the €3 million 3Andalucia Masters at a treacherous Valderrama layout in Spain today.
The final day saw the US Open champion lock horns with fellow northerner Gareth Maybin in the final group with Damien McGrane hot on their heels alongside Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Blustery conditions, tight tree-lined fairways and small greens made for a white-knuckle ride to the finish line. A premium was placed on pars rather than birdies as the Old Lady of European golf bared her teeth.
Experience told in the end as McDowell closed out his third win of the season with a closing 74 for a three under 281 winning aggregate as he went on to lift the €500,000 winner’s cheque.
“It’s very special to win here and I draw a lot of comparisons with Pebble Beach (where he won the US Open Championship in June),” beamed McDowell afterwards.
“It was a war of attrition and the last man standing really. Damien and Gareth are both grinders in their own right and I was just happy that I could eventually get the job done.”
“It really has been a special season and I couldn’t imagine it would have gone the way it has,” added G-Mac after his thrid win of the season and a big move closer to Martin Kaymer’s lead on the money list. “I’m very excited. I’ve punched a bit of a hole in Martin’s lead and I’ll go to Shanghai now and look to give him a run for his money.”
McGrane may have pitched in twice and was leading the tournament with three holes to play but he haemorrhaged shots on the closing stretch and had to settle for a three-way tie for second on one under alongside Maybin and Soren Kjeldsen. The Dane matched the low round of the day, a two under 69. The top four were the only players in the select 96-man field to break par.
Every player was beaten down by the Sotogrande layout but McDowell, riding on the crest of a wave this year, knew how to get the job done. With a two shot lead standing on the 18th he sensibly played the par four as a par five to avoid any unnecessary pitfalls.
For McGrane he tested the boundaries of the course at 16 and again at 17. At the 16 he pulled his approach but somehow stayed in bounds while at 17 he was so far right the Meath pro played his third to the infamous par five just inches from the stone boundary wall.
The 39-year-old was clearly rattled and eventually came home in double-bogey, bogey, bogey (17 shots to be precise) in a closing round of 72 to put paid to any chances of winning his second tour title to add to the China Open he won in 2008.
In Maybin’s case, he got off to another miserable start with three bogeys but kept his composure to stay in touch. With the prominent cork trees everywhere, he played one shot too may into the woodwork and was ultimately not accurate enough to challenge McDowell by closing with a 76 but was still happy with the finish and the €223,710 both he, McGrane and Kjeldsen picked up.
“It’s probably one of the most enjoyable weeks that I’ve had,” said Maybin. “To come up two shots shy was probably the right result but I’m very proud of how I bounced back and I’ll take a lot from that.”
McGrane left to rue a nightmare finish. “I had plenty of good fortune, but to hand it all away at the end was disappointing,” he said. “I didn’t hit any bad shots, I just got fliers when I didn’t need them. But that’s Valderrama – when it bites, it bites hard.”
McDowell is certain to move inside the world’s top 10 tomorrow and has reduced Kaymer’s lead almost in half in the Race to Dubai standings. Instead of being the best part of €1million behind the German, the 31-year-old is little over €500,000 adrift and within sight as the game’s leading lights head east for next week’s HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Kaymer closed with a 75 for a for a seven over 291 aggregate and missed out on the chance to take Tiger Woods’ world number one spot. That went to the injured Lee Westwood, who now takes over at the top with Woods and co hoping to have something to say about that in China next week.
Of the other Irish players Shane Lowry signed off with a 75 to be six over, two ahead of Darren Clarke and four ahead of Michael Hoey as all three shot 75s. Peter Lawrie dropped back to 13 over after a 77.
Collated scores and totals
281 Graeme McDowell 68 67 72 74
283 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 71 75 68 69, Damien McGrane 68 73 70 72, Gareth Maybin 69 68 70 76