hilton head island, s.c.
For all the big moments in Graeme McDowell’s career, his resume was short on PGA Tour victories.
McDowell relished what he called his first authentic tour win, defeating fellow U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson in a playoff at the RBC Heritage on Sunday.
McDowell’s been at the center of some of golf’s biggest moments, from his rousing triumph at Pebble Beach in 2010 to capturing the winning point for Europe in that year’s Ryder Cup matches. He has six European PGA victories, too, but he hadn’t triumphed in the weekly grind of the world’s top tour.
“This game kicks you more often than it gives you a pat on the back,” McDowell said. “It’s hard to win.”
Not on this day for McDowell, who pushed forward on wind-blown Harbour Golf Links when his rivals were moving backward, unnerved by the 20 to 30 mph winds that rattled the course.
He rallied from four strokes down when the day began to take a one-shot lead into the 72nd hole. Then after he made his only bogey of the round to fall into tie with Simpson, two-putted from about 15 feet to make a par on the extra hole that Simpson couldn’t match.
“I guess the weather was what the doctor ordered. I needed that to get close to the leaders,” said McDowell, who earned $1,044,000 for the victory.
McDowell, from Northern Ireland, had a 69, one of only three scores in the 60s among the 70 who teed off Sunday.
Simpson, reigning U.S. Open winner, shot 71. He had a chance to win in regulation, but his 22-footer for birdie went 3 feet past and set up the additional hole. “I came in with not too much confidence, but I just stayed true to the process of what we’ve been working on,” Simpson said.
Luke Donald shot a 69 to tie for third with Kevin Streelman, who had a 72. Jerry Kelly rounded out the top five after his even-par 71.
Charley Hoffman, the 54-hole leader, ballooned to a 77 and fell into a tie for sixth with Russell Henley (69) and Chris Stroud (70).
McDowell patted Simpson on the back after the playoff miss and smiled widely as the boats in Calibogue Sound tooted their horns and whistles. Neither McDowell nor Simpson made the cut a week ago at the Masters, yet bounced back in a big way at Harbour Town.
McDowell acknowledged he was frustrated and disappointed after missing the weekend at Augusta National by a shot. If he had made the cut, McDowell wondered if he’d have had the motivation to break through at Harbour Town. “It’s funny the way things happen,” he said. “I wouldn’t swap this for a top 10 last week.”