Graeme McDowell hadn’t won on the PGA Tour since November of 2015. He had virtually fallen into that abyss on the tour, scrambling for starts thanks to conditional status.
The former U.S. Open champion had fallen to 257th in the world but like the proverbial Phoenix, McDowell rose from the ashes on Sunday down at the Corales Puntacana Classic.
It was a spectacular Saturday that powered McDowell into contention. He had what he described as the best putting day of his long career. He used his putter just 20 times on his way to a third round 64 and he used that momentum to emerge from a tight race on Sunday for his fourth PGA Tour win.
Chris Stroud stood at 19-under par through 16 holes, McDowell came up with a huge shot at the 17th to take the lead.
“I was standing on 16 green and I said to myself, ‘You’ve got to do something that’s tournament-winning,'” McDowell said. “The shot to 17 was tournament-winning level.”
McDowell got up on the 17th tee and flagged a beautiful 6-iron to within 6 feet. Stroud made bogey for a two-shot swing, taking him from one behind to one in front heading to the last.
McDowell bogeyed 18 but caught a break when Stroud did the same. McDowell’s closing 69 got him to 18-under par, good for a one-shot victory over Stroud and Mackenzie Hughes.
“This is big for the people that stood by me,” McDowell said afterward. “It’s been a grind for my whole family, my wife, my kids back home. It’s been a rough few years.”
The victory didn’t get McDowell into The Masters or the Open Championship but he will gain entry into the PGA Championship.