COMMENTARY |Graeme McDowell is about as genuine as they come among professional golfers.
He's a great quote after good rounds and lousy ones. And he's a loyal friend - witness his staunch support of countryman Rory McIlroy through the phenom's lost season. As I wrote in a past column, he's the kind of bloke you'd want on the barstool next to you.
All these endearing qualities make his criticism of this week's Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links all the more puzzling.
During the Irish Open - one of seven missed cuts wedged between three wins in his last 10 starts - McDowell called Castle Stuart "too wide open" and "one-dimensional" to serve as a proper tune-up for the British Open. (The Scottish Open is played the week before the British every year). The British will be played next week at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland outside Edinburgh.
Native Scot Paul Lawrie took umbrage at G-Mac's comments and fired back this week, telling the Herald of Scotland, "Everyone is entitled to their opinions but they were poor comments. He should know better."
G-Mac may have been right about Castle Stuart being too easy. Luke Donald won in 2011 with a 19-under-par total while Jeev Milkha Singh won in playoff last year after he and Francesco Molinari posted 17-under totals.
Organizers tried to add some teeth to the course in 2012 by lengthening it 150 yards but the main defense against low scores on a links course is weather, specifically wind. McDowell should know better as he cut his teeth on the links at Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush.
Calm conditions on typically slow links greens lead to boatloads of birdies, whether it's the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart or the British Open on the traditional championship rotation of courses. St. Andrews has produced winning scores of 19-under, 14-under and 16-under in the last three trips there while six of the last 12 Open champions have posted winning scores of 10-under or better.
So G-Mac's claim that Castle Stuart is poor prep for the British Open because it's too easy makes little sense. Both Darren Clarke and Ernie Els competed there before winning the Claret Jug the very next week in 2011 and 2012.
McDowell may not like the course but I'm guessing he criticized it as an excuse to take the week off and prepare for the British Open.
Consistency has not been his strong suit this year and he has to be disappointed with missed cuts in the first two majors of 2013. This is after playing in the final twosome at both the U.S. Open and British Open last summer. G-Mac didn't win either but his taste of major success at the 2010 U.S. Open no doubt has him pining for another grand slam title. And the British Open has to be at the top of his list.
Mark McLaughlin has reported on the PGA Tour for the New York Post, FoxSports.com, Greensboro News & Record, and Burlington (N.C.) Times-News. He is a past member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @markmacduke.
- Sports & Recreation
- Castle Stuart
- Graeme McDowell
- Scottish Open
- British Open