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Get ready for G-Mac 3.0.
That’s what Graeme McDowell has dubbed the new release of his game ahead of the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, not just his debut in the 2021-22 PGA Tour season but also his first PGA Tour start since the Charles Schwab Challenge in May after taking nine weeks off to recover from a right forearm injury.
“I’ve had a mental reset, I’m refreshed and I’m motivated,” he said. “We’re calling it G-Mac 3.0 – 2.0 was after COVID. I’d been on the bike and I trained and I felt really great. 2.0 didn’t work. Now we’re on 3.0, which is continuing the work physically but working more on the mental side of things and be more accepting of where I’m at and just do what I do better and be a better version of the 42-year-old me.”
McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, is coming off a dismal season in which he made just five cuts in 15 starts on the PGA Tour and fell to No. 236 in the world. It was the first time he dealt with an injury – other than a nagging wrist injury a few years ago – that required him to sit out for an extended period of time. This happened after McDowell tried to ramp up his game by starting to work with instructor Lucas Wald late last year. However, the changes to his swing backfired and may have contributed to his injury.
“I felt like I was looking for something, trying to reinvent it, but you’re not going to reinvent 20 years of a move,” McDowell said. “It was a bit of a science experiment that went sideways. I know my swing well by now. If something goes wrong, it’s usually just a couple of things.”
Back to the drawing board he went and McDowell drew up a new plan after some soul searching.
“The couple of months I was out this summer gave me time to reflect and I’ve come to the conclusion that what’s going to hold me back the next few years isn’t physical, it’s mental,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with me physically and nothing wrong with my game. Do guys hit it 50 yards past me? Yeah, but guys hit it 50 yards by a lot of people. It’s not just me. I’m long enough to compete on certain courses, my iron play, chipping and putting is good enough to compete anywhere. I have to start doing what I do better instead of looking for some magic potion that doesn’t exist.”
McDowell will continue working hard to stay in top shape. He built a COVID gym in his garage, bikes regularly and wears a waist vest when he pounds the pavement at home.
“I’ll keep looking for the fountain of youth, and keep up my work physically,” he said.
Count him among the players who are glad that fans have returned. He spent a lot of time hanging out with Shane Lowry, renting houses on the road and cooking meals together as they created their own bubble inside the Tour’s bubble. But he struggled without the fan support.
“It was hard and I felt like I didn’t deal with it well. I found I was a guy that needs that little energy the crowd brings. Having those eyeballs on you gives me a narrower focus and natural energy,” he said.
McDowell played the European Tour’s Scottish Open in July and then took nine weeks off to let his forearm injury heal. He returned last month and made the cut at the BMW PGA Championship (T-49) and Dutch Open (T-22), wearing a brace on his upper arm to help combat the soreness as a precautionary measure. He said his game feels solid and he plans to play five events between now and the end of the PGA Tour’s official schedule this calendar year “to get some FedEx Cup points on the board,” and hopefully the QBE Shootout. This is the final year of McDowell’s exemption from his victory at the 2019 Puntacana Championship. Having served as a European Ryder Cup team vice captain at the last two matches, McDowell has set making the 12-man team in Rome in 2023 as a primary goal.
“There’s nothing like playing,” he said. “The last shot I hit was holing a 5-foot putt at 17 in 2014 to come back and beat Jordan Spieth in singles. Rory was behind the green and my wife, Kristin, was there. It was a super-cool memory for me. Hopefully there still will be one more ahead of me.”
G-Mac 3.0 is healthy and ready to go.