G Mac looking to kickstart his career again in Hawaii while it's take two for Power and the top-50

by Ronan MacNamara  

Graeme McDowell. Photo by Golffile

Seamus Power and Graeme McDowell will tee it up at the Sony Open in Hawaii today in the second PGA Tour event of the year at Waialae.

Power arrives off the back of a share of 15th place at the Sentry Tournament of Champions after seven weeks away while McDowell will be making his first appearance since the QBE Shootout where he partnered big-hitting Canadian, Corey Conners in the 54-hole event.

After last week’s birdie fest, the course this week contrasts starkly with the Plantation Course in Kapalua. Last week we had a course playing at 7600 yards but never played anywhere near that yardage with elevation changes, wide sloping fairways and massive greens.

This week we thankfully return to a more traditional old-fashioned layout with flat, narrow fairways with smaller greens. Cameron Smith will bid to emulate Ernie Els and Justin Thomas by winning back-to-back events in Hawaii.

Waterford native Power tees it up in his latest bid to break into the Official World Golf Rankings top-50 after climbing to a career-high 63rd last week.

The 34-year-old played his final 54 holes bogey-free and while an invite to Augusta National for the Masters in April seems like a case of when rather than if, he isn’t dwelling on any potential rewards for his great form and is looking to continue playing well and let the rankings sort themselves out.

“I don’t really know how the world rankings work or where you move to, but I know if I play well, I will go up, and if I don’t, I’ll go down,” he said after notching his fifth top-21 finish in seven starts this season.

Power will tee it up tonight alongside Charles Howell III and Australia’s Cameron Davis at 10.20pm Irish time and he is one of the most consistent players in the world on form right now having registered 11 top-25 finishes in his last 15 PGA Tour starts.

After last week's shootout where he finished -20 as Cameron Smith broke the PGA Tour scoring record on 34-under, Power is expecting to have a better chance at winning if he can reach 20-under again on the par-70 layout having been impressed with the state of his game after seven weeks away.

“It is quite different. It’s a smaller property with smaller fairways, thicker rough and more doglegs so scoring won’t be as low. Starting with it being a par 70 I suppose. 

“But in the past it’s normally around 20 under but it can be wind dependent. The course will play a little different this year too with it being softer. That was also a major factor last week as the rains leading up to these weeks have been substantial. “I have always liked the course without too much success here but I haven’t felt as good about my game at this point of the year in the past so hopefully I can make it count. 

“What pleased me most last week was I felt I was able to continue my good play after a break. I really was in good control last week especially after the first round and felt I was very close to an excellent week with a couple of breaks.” 

Twelve months ago he arrived ranked 429th in the world and missed the cut for the second year in succession. Now he arrives a completely different golfer who is looking up rather than over his shoulder at the 125th FedEx Cup spot.

In stark contrast, McDowell has had a nightmarish 12 months. Having broken back inside the world’s top-50 in February 2020 following his win in Saudi Arabia and strengthened his bid for a fifth Ryder Cup appearance that September he has been on a downward spiral ever since.

Once Covid shut the world down, the Portrush native’s game went with it.

2021 was a disaster for G Mac who underwent surgery on a forearm injury, lost his caddie for a period due to Covid, chopped and changed coaches before deciding to take matters into his own hands and only registered one top-10 on the PGA Tour.

Now back in Hawaii this week before jetting off to the Saudi International the 42-year-old will be hoping that he can enjoy something of an Indian summer this year as he looks to play his way onto the 2023 Ryder Cup team, so his hunger and desire seems to be back when it looked to have evaporated from the 2010 US Open champion’s eyes.

McDowell will tee off alongside Conners and Stewart Cink.

Kevin Na will defend his title this week and he is looking forward to returning to a place he has such fond memories of.

The American was tipped to earn a wildcard pick for Steve Stricker’s Ryder Cup team but missed out while he was also overlooked for Tiger Woods’ Presidents Cup side in 2019 despite winning twice, so he might need to get the hat trick to make the Presidents Cup team this year.

“Well, I won twice in 2019 and I didn't qualify [for the Presidents Cup] so I guess the answer was three wins.

“I've been right there for a few chances for a captain's pick and I haven't got it. The answer is just play better. If you're automatically qualified, you don't have to depend on a captain's pick, then there's no issue. So I just need to play a little better.”

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