McDowell on a high in Hawaii
Fine finish sees G-Mac just miss playoffs and new record
US Open champion Graeme McDowell signed off at the Tournament of Champions in record-equalling style with a broad smile on his face in Hawaii after starting his week with new clubs in his bag.
The 31-year-old from Ulster fired a sizzling 11-under-par 62 on a breezy afternoon at the Kapalua Resort, finishing just one shot outside a playoff for the title with a 23-under total of 269.
McDowell had a chance to join Americans Jonathan Byrd and Robert Garrigus in sudden-death but narrowly missed his birdie putt from nine feet at the par-five last.
"I'm very happy with the day's work," McDowell said after piling up 11 birdies in a flawless display on the hilly Plantation Course.
"Obviously when you go into a final round that far back and you know the scoring is going to be good, there's nothing you can do really but just put the head down and try and have a great day yourself."
The Irishman, who has switched his golf club manufacturer from Callaway to Srixon, began the final round six strokes off the pace but he made a red-hot start with five birdies in the first six holes.
"I continued to keep the gas on around the turn," he said. "When I birdied 13 through 16, I kind of started to think that maybe I had an outside shot.
"I really look back at the first three rounds as the problem for me. I didn't finish the golf course very well at all here during the week."
McDowell had covered the final six holes in an aggregate level par over the first three days and he set himself a personal challenge to improve on that on Sunday.
"I played great today," he said. "I just hit the ball a lot closer to the hole. I didn't really put my putter under a whole lot of pressure. It's just great to go low."
As for the nine-footer for birdie at the last which would have given him the course record at Kapalua, he simply hit it too hard.
"By the time I looked it up, it was kind of past the hole," McDowell said. "It was a tough putt, though. It was a double-breaker and it broke right, even though the grain was right-to-left.
"Maybe if I had hit it easier, it would have had a chance to go in but I kind of shoved it."
Overall, McDowell was delighted with his first appearance in the PGA Tour's elite, season-opening event which brings together winners from the previous year.
"It's great to come out and answer all of the questions this week," he said after ending his 2010 campaign with four victories worldwide and new golf clubs.
"I realised it was going to be a difficult way to start the season, with new equipment in the bag coming off the back of last year. There was always going to be questions. I've really enjoyed this week."