Lateral Hazard: Graeme McDowell conquered elements at Harbour Town like only he can

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With Adam Scott not playing this week – he was too busy eating breakfast cereal in his green jacket; working out in his green jacket; going grocery shopping in his green jacket; making ladies swoon in his green jacket – the storyline in golf shifted to a tenacious winner from Northern Ireland, an Ulsterman with major championship swagger who surprised no one with his victory at Harbour Town.

Yes, Graeme McDowell now has more wins on the PGA Tour in 2013 than that other kid from his country. What's his name? Maury? Oh, Rory? Sorry about that.

Hey, now. Just a little golf humor to perk up your post-Masters hangover. You know we love Rory McIlroy's game here at Lateral Hazard. A little locker room towel-snap from this slice of cyber space may just be the thing to get him going, right?

In the meantime, it's all about the other Northern Irishman – the one who preceded both Rory and countryman Darren Clarke to the major championship win circle when he won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in true Graeme McDowell style. In other words: tough, unglamorous, admirable golf.

It was no surprise that the only player left standing at Harbour Town with McDowell was a fellow U.S. Open champion, the reigning national title-holder Webb Simpson. In fact, Simpson's U.S. Open at Olympic Club was only sealed when McDowell himself missed a birdie try on the 72nd hole in San Francisco. So these two dudes know each other, and these two dudes were just the guys to handle Harbour Town's lethal cocktail of gale-force winds and Sunday pressure. You don't win a U.S. Open unless you're the guy who embraces adversity on a golf course. Harbour Town on Sunday, thy name was adversity.

[Also: James Driscoll will donate $1K per birdie to Boston bomb victims]

I mean, did you see those leaden skies and fierce gusts? Yo, Harbour Town. The British Open called. It wants its wind back. I was thinking of leading the column with an original line – "It was a dark and stormy night" – but didn't want to be sued for plagiarism by Snoopy.

How windy was it? You couldn't tell which was more tussled – third-round leader Charley Hoffman's game (final-round 77) or his Spicoli-like hair (final-round mess).

For McDowell, the Sunday 69 in the difficult conditions reminded us of the kind of conviction with which the 33-year-old plays. Whether it's a Ryder Cup-clinching match in 2010, or two monster putts in Tiger Woods' face at Tiger's Chevron World Challenge in 2010, or a 6-iron from 165 yards struck to 15 feet on the windy 18th hole in the playoff at Harbour Town on Sunday, the man who everyone calls one of the sweetest gentlemen on Tour can be a stone-cold killer if he has to.

Always the sportsman, he watched Webb Simpson's par putt slide past the hole, and grimaced instead of celebrated. He slapped Simpson on the back and told him, in that Northern Irish accent: "You hit a better putt than it showed." Of course, that doesn't mean McDowell feels so bad for Simpson he won't celebrate his win with Guinness-soaked gusto. Heck, he might do so at his new restaurant he just opened in Orlando, a place so hip that Nick Faldo name-checked it on CBS, then followed it up with a plea for a free meal at the joint. I will leave that to the rest of you to ponder.

McDowell's win was a fun way for all of us to ease back in after all that Masters drama. After all, Scott won't play again until the Players Championship in May, and Angel Cabrera wasn't even in the Northern Hemisphere. Tiger's off for a while, as is Rory.

[Also: Shaq, Bubba Watson team up for ridiculous photo]

So why not enjoy a player who is best on the PGA Tour in scrambling, one of the most accurate drivers of the golf ball out there and a player who scores his golf ball time and time again – tie-3rd at Doral, quarterfinals of the WGC Match Play, tie-5th at last year's British Open. He missed the cut at the Masters last week, but that's not a place that suits his game as much as a U.S. Open.

In fact, the USGA's annual shindig is less than two months away, at a ballstriker's paradise, Merion Golf Club. Just suggesting, is all.


72-72-76-64 – Even par 284, Angel Cabrera, winner (playoff), PGA Tour Latinoamerica 82 Abierto OSDE del Centro, Cordoba Golf Club, Cordoba, Argentina.

Hard to tell what's the best part about this story.

That Cabrera won in a playoff, the week after losing the Masters in a playoff.

That he did it at the club where he was a caddy as a youth.

That he followed a Saturday 76 with a Sunday 64.

That he eagled the 18th hole, a par-4, to force the playoff.

That he flew from Augusta to Argentina, stuck a peg in the ground just four days after his major heartbreak, and wound up hoisting the trophy.

[Also: Adam Scott talks Masters win, Australia, and relationship status]

Everything about Cabrera's game and style that was on display last week at the Masters goes into making this story the best of the week. His connection to his hometown, his competitive spirit, his flair for the dramatic – all of that goes into the narrative here. Think about his 72nd holes in one week's time. He eagled the 72nd hole at Cordoba for the playoff. One week earlier, he stiffed that 7-iron to three feet after Adam Scott let loose the Roar Heard Down Under moments earlier.

Sure, the quality of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica field didn't exactly mimic the final groupings at Augusta National, but Cabrera still had to fight off jet lag, letdown and the pressure of his hometown to produce that Sunday magic. I'd encourage Angel to mightily enjoy the win, but something tells me he doesn't need my prompting.


"From what I can gather, he took an illegal drop, signed a scorecard and left the course. Under most circumstances, that would result in disqualification. If the rules of golf are upheld, I believe he should have been disqualified." – Steve Williams, caddie to Adam Scott, former caddie to Tiger Woods, on 3 News, a New Zealand TV station, about Tiger's illegal drop at the Masters.

Here's a bad new joke: Did you hear doctors discovered a new disease called Stevie Williams Alzheimer's? Yeah, you forget everything but your grudge against Tiger.

While Williams went on to say he didn't think Tiger "was trying to gain anything on the field", you still have to marvel at how the guy Tiger called 'Stevie', and the guy Adam Scott simply calls 'Steve', continues to keep Tiger in his sights. He could have easily declined comment on the situation, and while his words aren't especially venomous – and I happen to agree with him – it still constitutes filing under that catch-phrase of social media today: shots fired.

You'd think after his ill-advised racial slur against Tiger last year, that Williams would avoid the subject of his old boss. But then again, he was asked, and he answered. And for those of us who like rivalries and enemy combatants on a sporting field, this is room service.


Charley Hoffman has won twice on the PGA Tour – the 2007 Bob Hope and the 2010 Deutsche Bank – but he will forever be known as the dude with the hair. He said he grows it longer to be different, and for that we applaud him. Why not? Shake it up. Life is short. Besides, he's got a receding hairline on top, so he might as well grow the yarn long in back to make up for it. And, as he proudly notes, his lack of hair on the front end disqualifies anyone from accusing him of sporting a mullet.

So, Hoffman's got the 54-hole lead at Harbour Town. He's homing in on his third Tour win, and building on last week's tie-3rd in Texas. He's tied for the lead. And he comes to the 14th hole, a devilish par-3 in the wind with water in front and just flat fans his tee shot. Ker-splash. Wet. It wasn't even close.

[Also: Adam Scott, the actor, is not happy with all the Masters jokes]

Hoffman would make double bogey, and shoot 77, finishing tie-6th.

But it would have been fun to see Hoffman in that playoff with McDowell and Simpson. It would have been fun to see his blonde tresses doing battle with the Harbour Town breezes under the most intense of pressures.

So, let's go back out to that 14th hole, remind Hoffman that he was representing longhairs everywhere, drop another one on the tee box and . . . give that man a mulligan!


It's on to New Orleans, where nothing says "Laissez les bon temps roulez" like the stoic, unchanging face of defending champ Jason Dufner.

Thing about Dufner is, he's got a dry sense of humor that he flashes regularly on Twitter. After last week's Masters, he tweeted: "Semi enjoyable week at the Masters, improving each year. T30, 2010. T24, 2012. T20, 2013. Ten years time I should be slipping on the green jacket."

That made me laugh.

Plus, of course, there'll be Dufnering on Bourbon Street by some golf fans.

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