Monday 3 February 2020 3:51 pm

Saudi win shows there's plenty more life left in lionheart Graeme McDowell

First Lee Westwood and now Graeme McDowell; wins for stalwarts of the European team are coming thick and fast at the start of this Ryder Cup year. It’s funny how things pan out.

Fittingly, McDowell, held off an American contingent of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson to win his first European Tour title for almost six years at the Saudi International on Sunday.

The 2010 US Open champion is a good frontrunner and showed it again. Johnson’s eagle at 18 brought him to within two shots and earned outright second, but no one got very close to overhauling McDowell.

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The Northern Irishman, 40, drew on the skills in windy weather that he honed growing up in Portrush. Conditions were tough in Saudi Arabia but he handled them beautifully all week.

McDowell’s victory in the Dominican Republic last year, his first PGA Tour title since 2015, would have proven to him that he can still do it – and this underlines that fact.

The icing on the cake is that it ends his five-year absence from the world top 50. This ensures that he gets into all the biggest events and is something that all the top players are aiming for.

It’s difficult to say whether you appreciate the wins more when you are in the later stages of your career – his Major will still be the highlight – but they certainly become more difficult.

On top of that, today’s top players hit it so much further, meaning that McDowell is at more of a disadvantage than when he started out. Fortunately, though, he has the heart of a lion.

It’s nice to hear him talk about his determination to work hard and get back to his best, given that he’s not in desperate need of money. Barely past his prime, there’s plenty of life left and he’s showing it.

Graeme McDowell
It’s 10 years since McDowell’s only Major win, at the US Open at Pebble Beach

This year marks a decade since McDowell’s standout season. Along with the US Open, he won three more titles, broke into the top 10 and clinched Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph at Celtic Manor.

Can he get back to that level? The door’s open for him and, of the Majors, I think the Open Championship and US Open are his best chances of adding to that win at Pebble Beach.

Elsewhere at Royal Greens, Thomas Pieters produced a strong finish to share third. Hopefully he can fulfil his potential because he is good enough to win three or four events a year.

Super Simpson

The Phoenix Open has an atmosphere like no other tournament on the PGA Tour thanks to the banks of 16,000 seats which fully enclose the iconic par-three 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.

Webb Simpson
Simpson’s late charge clinched the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, which boasts an iconic 16th hole

Spectators at the event were given something to cheer about on Sunday when Webb Simpson produced a grandstand finish to pip Tony Finau and claim his sixth title.

Trailing Finau by two shots with two holes to play, Simpson made consecutive birdies to force a play-off.

Then when they replayed the 18th, he conjured another to clinch a great win.