Graeme McDowell admits he is disappointed to find himself in a near-identical position as he looks to defend his title in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
McDowell went into last year’s event in Mexico without a top-10 finish since his opening event of the year and ranked 85th in the world, but went on to claim victory in a three-man play-off.
The former US Open champion followed that with third place in the RSM Classic the following week to move up to 53rd in the rankings and recorded five top 10s worldwide in 2016.
However, the 37-year-old Northern Irishman returns to Playa del Carmen just four places higher in the rankings than 12 months ago and in need of more good performances to book his place in next year’s Masters.
“It was a very important victory for me at the end of last season,” McDowell told a pre-tournament press conference. “It opened up some nice doors for me and put me in some good positions in the FedEx Cup points.
“I think this time of the year is becoming very important for the PGA Tour and I think that’s why we continue to see more and more players playing at this time of the year. It’s so important that they get off to a fast start with so many great players now and it being so difficult to win.
“The win last year here was very special to me on a lot of levels and of course I’d dearly love to try and repeat it this week. It was great to re-confirm to myself that when I put my mind to it I can still compete at the highest level.
“I suppose I’m disappointed that I haven’t really kicked on in 2016 with that momentum but this year has been a funny one. When it’s been good, it’s been really good, when it’s been bad I’ve been going home on Friday nights.”
McDowell will play the opening two rounds alongside American Charley Hoffman and Scotland’s Russell Knox, who finished joint runner-up with Jason Bohn last year after McDowell birdied the first play-off hole.
Former world number one Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Ireland’s Seamus Power are also in the field.