11/16/2015

Graeme McDowell endured one of his worst seasons as a professional in 2014-15. The 2010 US Open champion failed to make the cut at two majors and posted a single top-10 in 15 PGA Tour events. With the consistently poor play, some wondered if the 36-year-old was washed up.

McDowell silenced his critics, temporarily it should be said, Monday with his first PGA win since the 2013 RBC Heritage Classic. The Northern Irishman bested Russell Knox and Jason Bohn in a playoff to take the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

The shot that everyone will be talking about took place on the very first playoff hole. After closing with a smooth 5-under, 66, McDowell waited in the clubhouse one shot back of the leader Knox. The recent PGA Tour-winner, though, made a mess of 18. Knox pulled his tee shot into a bunker then failed to make par. He carded a 66, while Bohn’s 68 was enough to get him into extra holes.

That’s when McDowell took charge. After hitting 3-wood off the tee, he scorched a 5-iron that nearly found the bottom of the jar. Instead, the ball settled three feet from the hole and McDowell tapped in for birdie. Neither of his two competitors could match the three.

It wasn’t just McDowell’s first victory in two years. It was also meant as a late confidence boost for a beaten golfer. McDowell wasn’t sure he would play the Mexican tournament until his mounting poor results made him realize he wanted to end the 2015 calendar year on a positive note—or at least try to.

He accomplished that mission well into Monday, which hosted the final round due to weather. McDowell delivered his finest moments of the year with but a month to spare. Now he can look forward to carrying some momentum into the 2016 season, which, as you may have heard by now, includes the Ryder Cup.

With a career record of 8-5-2, McDowell has emerged as one of the stalwarts of the European’s recent dominance in the biannual event. But at his age and form, he quickly fell off countryman and European captain Darren Clarke’s radar. Or he should have. McDowell isn’t alone in his struggles. Fellow veterans Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald have all played poorly in the time since the dominant Euro win at Gleneagles.

He’ll likely need more to get back in the mix. After all, McDowell sits 16th on the World Points List with a host of young talent ahead of him. But McDowell made a statement this weekend. Consider it a closing salvo on a difficult year and a roaring announcement to a new season.