Graeme McDowell returns to a happy hunting ground this week at the UBS Hong Kong Open and is hopeful that familiar surroundings can inspire him to a first European Tour win of the season.
The 36-year-old finished in a tie for ninth at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February and is without a top 10 since, but has shown encouraging signs since missing the cut at the US PGA Championship in August.
He returned to action at the Porsche European Open and then went under par in 11 consecutive rounds before a poor Sunday back nine at the British Masters saw him fall to a tie of 30th after being in contention at the turn.
And while Hong Kong Golf Club may be a long way from his native Northern Ireland, McDowell – who has finished in the top 20 on all four of his previous appearances here – is looking forward to taking on a high quality field that includes the world’s seventh and eighth ranked players in Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson, as well as World Number 20 Patrick Reed.
“I think I’m really close. Been hitting it much better the last few months. Sort of there or thereabouts at the Dunhill Links, there or thereabouts the British Masters,” said McDowell.
“Just some bad back nines on Sundays. I feel like I’ll really close. It has not been the kind of year I’d hoped for but that’s the game of golf.
“You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth. Got to keep working and keep trying. I’ve got to get the business face on here this week and try to compete and trying to play well at the UBS Hong Kong Open. I’m certainly very motivated.”
Those four marquee names will naturally be among the favourites to capture the 57th edition of the Hong Kong Open, which will see Australian Scott Hend defend the title fresh from winning the Asian Tour’s Venetian Macao Open last week, and Spanish legend Miguel Angel Jiménez chasing a record fifth title.
“I feel like my game is probably in better shape arriving this year than what it was in years past. So you know, I’m pretty optimistic about playing well this week,” said Rose.
“I think consistency has been probably a key word for me this year. I played well in the majors which I was very happy about. I kind of built my year around April to September and I a good job of really playing well in pretty much every event I did for that spell.
Padraig Harrington, Peter Lawrie and Kevin Phelan are also in action this week.