FILE PHOTO: Mar 8, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Graeme McDowell hits his driver on the 18th hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
(Reuters) – Graeme McDowell resurrected his stagnant career with a one-stroke victory at the Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
The Northern Irishman took the lead with a five-foot birdie at the 17th hole and despite a bogey at the last edged American Chris Stroud and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes at Puntacana Resort.
“This is big for the people who stood by me the last few years because it’s been a rough few years,” McDowell told Golf Channel.
He reached as high as fourth in the world back in 2011, but arrived in the Dominican Republic ranked a lowly 257th.
McDowell shot a closing 69 to finish at 18-under-par 270 for his fourth victory on the PGA Tour, and his first since 2015.
He was already exempt for June’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he enjoyed the biggest moment of his career by winning the 2010 championship.
One of McDowell’s big goals this year is to get into the British Open at Royal Portrush in his homeland.
Though Sunday’s victory does not on its own earn him an exemption to that tournament, it is a big step toward qualifying by other means.
“It’s been a grind,” said the 39-year-old. “I’m really happy I got this done.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris