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McDowell wins in playoff at RBC Heritage

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) - Graeme McDowell found just the pick-me-up after a frustrating week at the Masters.

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The 2010 U.S. Open champion missed the cut at the season's first major by a stroke. Disappointed, he left Augusta National and headed to the RBC Heritage with his fiancee, parents and several friends to de-stress and have fun.

``Yeah, it was a workweek, but it was kind of a low-key workweek,'' McDowell said. ``I came here. I did my work and I went home.''

He's heading home with the RBC Heritage championship, standing tall on a wind-swept Sunday that blew away most of the competition at Harbour Town Golf Links.

McDowell outlasted reigning U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson in a playoff, his two-putt par from about 15 feet taking the victory when Simpson couldn't answer.

It was McDowell's second career PGA Tour victory, the first since he won his major at Pebble Beach three years ago.

McDowell was grateful for laid-back Harbour Town and the chance to wipe away the wall-to-wall stress of the Masters.

``I took a pretty relaxed approach this week, and really tried to enjoy myself,'' he said. ``Have a glass of wine or two in the evening and some great food and some good friends and family. So that was really the M-O this week and it seemed to work out really well.''

McDowell's resume includes big moments, from his rousing triumph at Pebble Beach three years ago to clinching the winning Ryder Cup point for Europe later that year. It is short, though, on PGA Tour victories.

``This game kicks you more often than it gives you a pat on the back,'' McDowell said. ``It's hard to win.''

Not on this day for McDowell, who pushed forward on wind-blown Harbour Golf Links when his rivals went backward, unnerved by the 20 to 30 mph gusts that rattled the course.

He rallied from four strokes down when the day began to take a one-shot lead into the 72nd hole. Then, after he made his only bogey of the round to fall into tie with Simpson, he two-putted from about 15 feet to make a par on the extra hole that Simpson couldn't match.

``I guess the weather was what the doctor ordered. I needed that to get close to the leaders,'' said McDowell, who earned $1,044,000 for the victory.

McDowell, from Northern Ireland, had a 2-under 69, one of only three scores in the 60s among the 70 who teed off Sunday.

Simpson, the reigning U.S. Open winner, shot 71. He had a chance to win in regulation, but his 22-footer for birdie went 3 feet past and set up the additional hole.

``I came in with not too much confidence, but I just stayed true to the process of what we've been working on,'' Simpson said.

Luke Donald shot a 69 to tie for third with Kevin Streelman, who had a 72. Jerry Kelly rounded out the top five after his even-par 71.

Charley Hoffman, the 54-hole leader, ballooned to a 77 and fell into a tie for sixth with Russell Henley (69) and Chris Stroud (70).

McDowell patted Simpson on the back after the playoff miss and smiled widely as the boats in Calibogue Sound tooted their horns and whistles. Neither McDowell nor Simpson made the cut a week ago at the Masters, yet bounced back in a big way at Harbour Town.

McDowell acknowledged he was frustrated and disappointed after missing the weekend at Augusta National by a shot. If he had made the cut, McDowell wondered if he'd have had the motivation to break through at Harbour Town. ``It's funny the way things happen,'' he said. ``I wouldn't swap this for a top-10 last week.''

The course showed its teeth, winds arcing flagsticks and blowing debris on every hole. Donald backed off his putt on No. 7 when a large leaf tumbled through his line. Crews watered several greens between groups simply to keep balls holding instead of skipping off the wind-swept sod.

Blowers were heard throughout the day, trying to push off leaves, twigs and other tree parts falling everywhere on the course.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the area, warning of gusts up to 45 mph.

``Extremely difficult,'' Donald said of the conditions. ``Strongest wind I've played in all year.''

Donald, who's got two seconds and a third in his past four appearances at Harbour Town, got an early charge going with four birdies on his first six holes to draw within two of the lead before Hoffman and Simpson hit the course.

Donald, ranked No. 6 in the world, couldn't keep the surge going, though. He had birdie chances on the final three holes of the front nine, but came up empty. Bogeys on the 13th and 15th holes ended Donald's run. Still, he managed his fourth top-five finish in his last five trips to the RBC Heritage.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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