MARANA, Ariz. -- This match was extremely well-played and it seemed somewhat fitting that neither Graeme McDowell nor Alexander Noren held more than a 1-up advantage.
The two exhanged wins with birdies on the first three holes before McDowell squared the match with a par at No. 4. The Northern Irishman won the sixth hole when he drained a 24-footer for birdie to go 1 up and held that lead until he made double bogey at the par-5 13th -- finding the greenside bunker, the desert, where he had to take a drop, and another bunker on the way to that 7.
The 2010 U.S. Open champion was able to shake off that frustration, though, when he birdied No. 14 but Noren answered with one of his own to square the match on the next hole. The Swede then rolled in a 7-footer for birdie to take just his second lead of the day at No. 17 but McDowell sent the match to extra holes with his clutch 4-footer at the 18th.
Noren got up and down from beside the green on the first extra hole to halve with McDowell who two-putted for par from 33 feet.
The Northern Irishman then polished Noren off with a 7-foot birdie putt on the 20th hole after the Swede couldn't capitalize despite getting a free drop in the desert when a TV tower was in his line of sight.
"I hit it inside him most of the day, but he was really hot with the putter, made everything he looked at pretty much and hit a lot of great shots," McDowell said. "It was a tough game. I had to play decent just to hang onto him."
SCORECARD STATS: McDowell made seven birdies and one double bogey in 20 holes. Noren made six birdies and three bogeys.
HOLES WON: McDowell won six holes. Noren won five holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Shane Lowry, who beat Carl Pettersson 6 and 5.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Through 11 holes, Graeme McDowell was playing steady while Padraig Harrington was missing some short putts. Consequently, the fifth-seeded McDowell was 3 up.
But McDowell then lost the next three holes, two with bogeys, to square the match. The battled between the Northern Irishman and the Irishman remained tight for the rest of the way until Harrington found trouble late to lose two of the final three holes.
McDowell said a key hole was the 15th when he followed Harrington's birdie with one of his own to keep the match squared.
"That kind of got me buzzing," McDowell said, "and I made some nice swings coming in."
McDowell advances to play Alexander Noren in the second round of the Jones bracket.
Luke Donald is one of a handful of notable players making his PGA TOUR season debut this week at the Northern Trust Open.
Three years ago, Donald nearly won at Riviera, finishing second to Steve Stricker. The last two years haven't been as kind to Donald -- he missed the cut last year and finished outside the top 50 in 2011. For more on Donald, check out his Top 100 to Watch in 2013 profile.
Others notables making their debut this week, include:
Sergio Garcia: This marks the second time in as many years Garcia has opened his TOUR season at Riviera. Last year, he tied for fourth at Hogan's Alley. In 2007, he finished sixth.
Graeme McDowell: This is the first time since 2009 McDowell is playing the Northern Trust Open. He's missed the cut twice and finished in a tie for 41st in his only appearances there.
Adam Scott: The 2007 Northern Trust Open winner has two finishes in the top 20 in his last three trips to L.A., including a tie for 17th a year ago when he also began his TOUR season there.
Ernie Els: The reigning British Open champ has already played three times on the European Tour. This is the latest Els has made his TOUR debut since 2008 when he opened with the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here.
2013 PREVIEW: Graeme McDowell won three times worldwide in 2010, including the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. But his only wins since -- on either side of the Atlantic -- have come at Tiger Woods' season-ending shindig, most recently in December. He'll be looking to take that momentum and get back into the winner's circle in 2013.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: McDowell played in the final group on Sunday at the U.S. Open and British Open and finished 12th or better in all four of golf's crown jewels. He shared the lead with Jim Furyk at the Olympic Club but shot 73 and finished tied for second after missing a 25-footer on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. The Northern Irishman was tied for second entering the final round at Royal Lytham but shot 75 and tied for fifth. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: A very intense player on the golf course and a very nice person following the round. Graeme is a great driver of the golf ball and very good interview, always giving thoughtful answers. If you’d like to sit down and have a beer with a player, Graeme would be great company. He might even pick up the tab. -- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: The recently betrothed Ulsterman roared back from a disappointing 2011. He's on the short list of best active one-time winners on the PGA TOUR, but the criteria for that fact is reason for hesitation in salary games that list him at $2.4 million. Otherwise, he's cornerstone value in other formats where you've compensated with guys that tee it up at least 20 times. In his prime at 33. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
||Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 13
Rounds played: 54
Top-10 finishes: 4
Money List rank: 31st
Driving distance: 136th
Driving accuracy: 5th
Greens in regulation: 37th
Strokes gained-putting: 160th
Scoring average: 32nd
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What is your prediction for Graeme McDowell in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know
ON THE MARK ARCHIVE: Tips from Mark Immelman
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
It would not surprise me at all if Graeme McDowell bought a house and become a member at Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, Calif. It appears that he has a torrid love affair with the picturesque venue. Get these numbers: G-Mac has played the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual three times (2009, 2010 and 2012) and is 45 under for 12 rounds sporting a stroke average of a mere 68.25. His record in Tiger’s event of two victories (2010, 2012) and a runner-up (2009) have earned him $3 million.
This year he offset twenty birdies with only three bogeys in four rounds and once again exhibited fantastic control from tee to green. I have always been impressed with McDowell’s determined manner and his positive approach to his game and his craft and there are certainly many things we can learn from watching him play. Among other things it appears that he really understands the nature of his swing and its tendencies and that is the lesson I would like to highlight this week.
G-Mac plays with a bowed lead (left) wrist and, by extension, a closed clubface at the top of his swing. From there he uses an aggressive unwind of his hips and a shallowing of his arm-swing to deliver the clubface on a more in-to-out approach (For the record his practice swing is evidence of his attempt to straighten the path of his swing more). Through impact and beyond he marries the action of his torso and his arms to hold the release of the clubface, in effect opening it, to make it play a little more square to the target-line. His method allows him to hit a penetrating, pretty reliable draw. McDowell uses what I would term a “Closed-to-Open” method.
Now I would not recommend G-Mac’s swing style to everyone. What I would like to reiterate, however, is the position of the club at the top of the swing dictates how it has to be delivered in order to make that “moment of truth” at impact count. Further, having an awareness and an understanding of this relationship will go a long way toward you hitting quality shots more consistently.
Remember always that the face angle has the most profound influence on the direction of the shot. So if you are making adjustments to the top of your backswing, aligning the shaft with the target is certainly important but squaring the clubface is more so.
If indeed you do not want to tinker with the top of the backswing, do bear in mind the situation of your clubface and whether it is open or closed – Open will have the leading edge pointing more toward the ground and closed will have it pointing more toward the sky. If the face is closed (ala Graeme) you will need to incorporate moves in your downswing and through impact that will keep it from closing further or you will hit hooks and pulls. Conversely, if the face tends open you will need to ensure that you release the face more in order to square it through impact. If you do not do so you will more than likely hit slices or pushes.
In summary, whatever you do should point toward impact. Each and every golf swing’s value is defined by how good impact is, not how good the swing looks.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.
Graeme McDowell used the spectacular setting of the 656-foot high helipad of the Burg Al Arab Hotel in Dubai to propose to his long-time girlfriend Kristin Stape.
The Northern Irishman proposed to the U.S.-born Stape two weeks ago and plan to get married at the end of next year, he said.
"I did it properly, getting down on one knee," McDowell told the Irish Independent about the proposal. “She had no idea what was going on and was shocked and stunned. I even found myself getting a little bit emotional.
"It was a very special location, looking out over Dubai."
McDowell first met Stape when he contacted her Orlando interior design business to decorate his home and popped the question when in Dubai for a practice session before heading to the Australian Masters in Melbourne.
So now she'll be moving into the house she's designed," McDowell told the newspaper.
"Hopefully she's built a house she likes because it'll cost me a lot of money if we have to change it," he added with a laugh. "But I don't see that happening. Kristin's a great girl and both my family and hers are delighted with the news."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Europe (Rory McIlroy & Graeme McDowell)
U.S. (Jim Furyk & Brandt Snedeker), 1 up
Click for more: Hole by hole
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MEDINAH, Ill. – In the opening match of the Ryder Cup, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell won the match on the 18th hole after Americans Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker rallied on the back nine.
MATCH FLOW: The Americans led for two holes early, but then the Northern Irishmen reeled off four straight birdies, two for wins and two to halve, and Europe was 1 up through seven holes. The U.S. squared the match at the eighth when Snedeker made a 5-footer to save par but Europe seemingly seized control when it won three straight holes starting at No. 9. The Americans, though, began to whittle at their lead, winning the 13th with a par, halving the par-5 14th with a birdie and making another for the win at No. 15. Furyk forced Europe's hand there by going for the green and McDowell, hitting second, found the water. A third straight birdie at the 16th after a brilliant Furyk approach to 4 feet squared the match. But McDowell, who made the clinching putt at the 2010 Ryder Cup, came up with another clutch putt, this one for par from 12 feet, at the 18th for Europe's win.
BY THE NUMBERS: The European team won six holes and shot a combined 2 under. The U.S. team won five holes and shot a combined 2 under.
TIPPING POINT: Many will point to the second hole where Furyk questioned the ruling McDowell was hoping to get with his ball perched near a sprinklern head. He didn't get the ruling but it appeared to fire the two Northern Irishmen up. Granted, Snedeker and Furyk fought back but McDOwell is nothing it not a clutch putter and he got the chance at the 18th hole.
N OTES & QUOTES: "It was a great game today against two really great competitors. Jim Furyk played particularly magnificent. My job is fairly easy. I've got the best player in the world beside me and he makes my job extremely easy." -- Graeme McDowell. …
“They did a good job of getting the ball up‑and‑down and making the putt. I know Graeme was nervous but like I said, he has ice in his veins, hit a 6‑footer straight up the hill. It looks easy to everyone else, being in that position, I know how difficult it was and he poured it in. I tip my hat to him.” – Jim Furyk …
“Got to 18 with a chance to win the match which is what you're trying do. I just put an awful shot, put Jim in a terrible position. Hate to do that to Jim, let alone my team, but the team can pick us up this afternoon and get us back in this thing, and I look forward to the next chance to go and put a point on the board.” – Brandt Snedeker …
“That match to me just personifies The Ryder Cup. Myself and Rory played some great golf to go 3‑up, and then you're playing against two very gutsy players who clawed their way back to all‑square coming down the last two holes. “ Graeme McDowell …
McIlroy and McDowell now have been paired in four Ryder Cup matches. They are 2-1-0 in Foursomes and 2-2-0 in team play together. McDowell is now 2-1-1 in Foursomes and 3-2-2 in team play. …
McIlroy/McDowell were 4-under par on the front nine today, with five birdies. …
Furyk is now 1-4-1 in the first session of matches in the Ryder Cup and 3-6-2 in Foursomes.