A week makes the difference for refreshed Graeme McDowell as he wins RBC Heritage in Carolina

Northern Irishman wins his first PGA Tour title since 2010 US Open after missing cut at Masters

The colour isn't green but that didn't matter much to Graeme McDowell, celebrating his first PGA Tour victory in three years. The RBC Heritage champion embraced the tartan jacket as if it were presented at Augusta after his play-off victory over Webb Simpson in South Carolina. The win takes him to No 8 in the world rankings and reboots belief in the build-up to the US Open in June.

"It's amazing kind of how things happen. I miss a cut by one last week [at the Masters] and am frustrated and disappointed. And perhaps if I make the cut last week and grind a 30th or 40th position out, do I sit here with this beautiful jacket on?" McDowell said. "I wouldn't swap this win for a top 10 last week. Of course, I'd swap it for a Green Jacket, but I wouldn't swap it for anything less than the win last week. In many ways the missed cut was the best thing that happened."

We can forgive McDowell his euphoria. The pickings have been far too slim since his victory at the US Open at Pebble Beach three years ago. Only two wins, at the Valderrama Masters and the reduced-field Chevron Challenge, embroider his resumé. He has, of course, contributed to two Ryder Cup triumphs in the meantime to cement his place in golfing lore, but it is the nitty-gritty of tour notches that ultimately defines a career.

McDowell, who started the final round four off the lead, led by a stroke on 10 under par at the last but a bogey dragged him into an extra hole with Simpson. No problem. Par was enough to see him home. "I knew in the bottom of my heart that my game was getting better. We'll all sit here and say you can't measure yourself by wins. It's not about the wins, it's about the upper curve and getting better and all these things. But when it really boils down to it, wins are very, very important to us. And you take a huge amount of confidence and belief and momentum from those.

"This is probably one of the more special ones in my career because it feels right. It feels good. My first real win on this side of the pond as a PGA Tour player. I feel this is building blocks for something good this year and beyond. I'm very excited about this."

Nine days previously McDowell was waiting by the 18th green hoping he had done enough to scrape two more rounds at Augusta. The course had not treated him well. Here it was different, tighter by half and windy as hell on the final day. Failure to progress at the Masters was met with a degree of insouciance, a determination not to get down on himself. The trip north to Hilton Head was treated as a working holiday, a McDowell clan gathering of family and friends in two rented houses. It worked.

"The way you take the pressure off yourself, I suppose, by looking at the bigger picture and realising that it's not life or death; it's just golf. It's just sport. And, yes, it hurts and, yes, you're nervous and it's disappointing. There's more disappointments in this game than there are successes. That's why you've got to enjoy nights like tonight because this game kicks you more often than it gives you a pat on the back.

"It doesn't pay debts. If you feel like you deserve anything, this game certainly doesn't give it back to you. And I feel like I have learnt to understand, to keep an open mind, to kind of accept what this game throws at me and learn from my tough experiences and just try and put that back into the greater improvement that I'm on. I feel like I've learnt a lot from this sport.

"It still continues to disappointment me and frustrate me, but I feel like I've got better and better at accepting and understanding what it takes to win more. And I want to win more often. It's a great habit to get into. There are so many great players in the world right now it's very difficult. It's hard to do. You've got to savour them."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own