x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

Caddie change has no affect on Graeme McDowell at Dubai Desert Classic

Graeme McDowell does not have his regular caddie with him in Dubai this week, but he doesn't seem to be missing him at all.

Graeme McDowell during the second round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Ross Kinnaird / Getty
Graeme McDowell during the second round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Ross Kinnaird / Getty

As one of European golf’s most reliable double acts, Graeme McDowell and Ken Comboy have experienced quite a bit of success together.

The pair, one a major champion and the other a former caddie of the year, have spent the past nine years traipsing the globe for prizes and purses, a run that includes the 2010 US Open win, not to mention eight other notable victories.

So you would expect the Northern Irishman to miss his on-course confidante at this week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Comboy has taken a rare leave of absence after undergoing knee surgery earlier this month and, in the meantime, McDowell has temporarily teamed up with Matt Harbour, who last carried the bag in 2006.

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After moving into second place at the halfway stage in Dubai on Friday, McDowell might have to reconsider the Comboy relationship. To be fair, the English caddie has form.

“It’s only the second event he’s missed in nearly nine years,” McDowell said. “When he used to caddie for Thomas [Bjorn] he missed only two events and Thomas won them both, so the omens are fairly good. I’d like to try to make that three if possible.”

Comboy is scheduled to be back for the Honda Classic on February 26 — he sits out next week’s Malaysian Open — but, such has been his employer’s form at Emirates Golf Club, he could conceivably face more downtime this season.

“I’ll have to give him the major championships off, for sure,” McDowell joked.

Comboy is not completely out of sight this week, though. Having travelled to Dubai with Team McDowell in a bid to expedite his rehabilitation, on Friday he could be seen offering words of encouragement at the fourth tee box.

McDowell responded by floating an iron to within six feet at the par 3, where he promptly rolled in the putt for birdie. He finally signed off on a 65, lifting him to 12-under par. Good to have Comboy along, after all. Saying that, the world No 19 was not the only person glad he had made the trip.

“He’s been stuck back home in Manchester,” McDowell said. “He’s worn quite the groove in that couch, according to his wife.”

The intricacies of married life are something McDowell well understands these days. He is making his 2015 debut without his other other-half, since Kirsten is back in the US looking after the couple’s five-month-old baby daughter. It has had a certain motivational effect.

“When I tee it up it’s very important to me that I’m prepared and ready to apply myself and give the family something to cheer about at home,” McDowell said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

He seemed to be having just that around the Majlis. McDowell fired five birdies in six holes on his back nine — he bogeyed the other — to add to three on his way out. Before Marc Warren hit 13-under, McDowell possessed a share of the lead. Yet he is simply happy to be there or thereabouts.

“My expectations were in check this week,” he said. “Because after six weeks off you expect a little rust, not to be 100 per cent sharp. Although, at this point I’ve earned nothing. Just have to keep the pedal down. Looking forward to getting the juices flowing tomorrow and being at the business end of things going into the weekend. It’s not going to be much more than 20-under par to win this.”

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