With a fierce wind whipping off the Calibogue Sound, conditions and player apparel in the Heritage resembled the British Open on Sunday. So Graeme McDowell broke out one of his signature pastel sweaters and captured his first PGA Tour event in nearly three years, beating Webb Simpson on the first playoff hole.
McDowell, a native of coastal Portrush in Northern Ireland, looked right at home in gusty Hilton Head, S.C. Seaside success is a common theme in the career of McDowell, 33. His memorable first victory in America -- three years ago at the U.S. Open -- came under gray skies and in the mist at Pebble Beach. His last five wins, including those on the European Tour, have come in coastal towns.
On a day when more players shot 80 (four) than broke 70 (three), nobody played Harbour Town better than McDowell (69). Grind-it-out golf is what it takes to win U.S. Opens. As the reigning Open champ, Simpson was equipped as well. But on the playoff hole, firing toward Harbour Town's iconic lighthouse and straight into the wind, Simpson pushed his 6-iron right of the green and failed to save par.
It was a far different result for McDowell than last week at the Masters, where he failed to make the cut. After his win, McDowell remembered what former Open and Harbour Town champion Jim Furyk had told him earlier this week.
"Jim said, 'You're never out of this tournament. You gotta hang around, hang around,'?" McDowell said.
Few do that as well as McDowell, especially when the conditions are foreboding.
- Kevin Dunleavy