It's not a green jacket, but Graeme McDowell won a tartan blazer on Sunday, edging out Webb Simpson in the third playoff of the past four years at Harbour Town. The RBC Heritage victory is McDowell's first sanctioned win in the states since his major victory in 2010, coming from behind to close it out after repeated near misses since that win at Pebble Beach.
McDowell and Simpson were two of the handful of players to finish Sunday at even-par or better, but it was the Northern Irishman's low-round of 69 that chased down the final group playing behind him. He carried that steady tee-to-green form over to the playoff, where on the first hole he put his approach shot in perfect position below the pin. Simpson, on the other hand, was well off the green to the right and took putter to come up to the cup.
Simpson nearly sank his birdie attempt with an impressive putt that burned the edge. Unfortunately for him, a gust carried the ball well past the hole, as it initially looked like it would settle in nicely just a foot past for the easy up-and-down. McDowell simply cleaned up his two putts for the quick par to put all the pressure on Simpson, who missed the par-saving putt coming back to the hole. McDowell noted the bit of bad fortune for Simpson, but the 2010 U.S. Open winner was the best player in the field on Sunday.
The winds were howling at Hilton Head, sustained around 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 50 mph. Harbour Town is already a tight layout, one of the classic courses that is often cited as the touring pros most favorite track on the annual rota.
The conditions quickly knocked 54-hole leader Charley Hoffman, who started the day with a multi-shot cushion, from his perch. Simpson and Hoffman exchanged blows on the front side, but the 2012 U.S. Open champ had erased the deficit by the fourth hole. By early in the back nine, it became clear that it would be a two-horse race between McDowell and Simpson, who were simply holding on in the South Carolina wind.
McDowell has been close to a second PGA Tour win, but has come up short on Sunday on multiple occasions. He did stare down and edge out Tiger Woods at his own World Challenge, but that December outing is not an officially sanctioned PGA Tour event. On Sunday, he took a bogey-free round to the 18th green, where his ball sat on the back edge. But McDowell, who took a putter for his third shot, blasted it well past the hole and left the come-backer outside the right edge for a disappointing three-putt. That slip-up dropped him back into a share of the lead at 9-under with Simpson, who finished the 18th with a par to force the playoff.
It's not a major, but it's still a huge victory for McDowell, who needed to add a PGA Tour win to his resume and break through on the American circuit. He's been close at several majors since his 2010 win at Pebble, and this victory reaffirms his status as one of the best players in the world and a contender on a weekly basis, including at June's U.S. Open.