Graeme McDowell: Ulsterman has mental and putting skills in spades
Rob Lee says Accenture Match Play 'escapologist' Graeme McDowell is one of the world's best putters.
Last Updated: 27/02/14 11:18am
Every time he looked down and out he pulled off a Harry Houdini manoeuvre to knock out Gary Woodland (19th hole), Hideki Matsuyama (1up) and old Ryder Cup sparring partner Hunter Mahan (1up).
At one point I thought Graeme's name was etched on the trophy but even though the miracle came to a close when he lost to Victor Dubuisson in the quarter-finals, he can take great confidence from his run, as well as his recent seventh place at Pebble Beach.
McDowell is not as good as Tiger Woods and his great friend Rory McIlroy but there are not many players better than him these days and he has one thing many guys of his era would love to have: a Major title.
I think he has achieved such success because of a few factors, one of which is his putting as, much like Ian Poulter, whenever you see him on a green you always thinks he is going to knock his ball in the hole.
You need a bit of luck to sink the 40-feet putts but Graeme's five, six, seven-feet ones go in at the same speed all the time which shows you how well he reads his lines and how much freedom he gets in his strokes.
However, McDowell is also very strong mentally and is able to forget about errors or bad rounds and come back even better, though he is helped in that respect by his great relationship with his caddie Ken Comboy, a fellow Man United fan.
Half the battle in golf is in the mind and Graeme has this inner arrogance that really helps him in that department, which is why I am not surprised he has a US Open title in his cabinet.
That inner arrogance and self-belief is something that McIlroy has got back after a tricky 2013 campaign and I've definitely got him pencilled in to win a Major this year.
I know he was knocked out in the second round at the Match Play by Harris English but that only occurred on the 19th hole and he is driving the ball beautifully at the moment, which makes him a fearsome opponent.
Rory is one of the most naturally-gifted golfers I have ever seen but I think the application side of things is beginning to get there, too, and I'm sure he learned a lot from his tribulations last season.
I reckon he was disappointed the way he let down his fans and sponsors at the 2013 Honda Classic by walking off with an apparent toothache and has subsequently realised what is expected of a world star, as well as where to take his counsel from.
However, we shouldn't overlook what Rory has already achieved.
If a player wins their first event by the age of 24, they go down as a very promising young golfer, but by the age of 24 McIlroy has won the Race to Dubai, topped the money list in America, become world number one and won two Majors by eight strokes each.
That makes him exceptional, not ordinary, and it was always going to take him time to deal with that but now that he is he could go on a tear, particularly at Augusta, where he has unfinished business.
Rory had a bit of a meltdown in the final round at the 2011 Masters - though he still might have won it, despite shooting 80, if he had more than an average putting week - but he has a perfect game for Augusta and I would not be shocked if he picked up multiple Green Jackets.
ROB'S SKY BET TIPS
I am backing McIlroy to win the Honda Classic for the second time, but I think Billy Horschel - who performed well at the Match Play in spite of losing to eventual champion Jason Day on the 22nd hole in round two - represents good each-way value. At the Tshwane Open, meanwhile, I am going to go for young Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, who has a good action, proved he can cope with grainy greens when he went close at the Africa Open a few weeks back, and is primed for a breakthrough win.