McDowell confident his game is tailor-made for this Major challenge
Ulsterman is looking for the fourth victory of what has been a hitherto topsy-turvy season
Tiger Woods keeps a close eye on his tee shot during practice for the British Open at Muirfield Golf Club, East Lothian, yesterday. Photograph: Getty Images
The topsy-turvy form exhibited by Graeme McDowell these past few months – either winning, as he has done three times, or missing the cut, which has happened on five occasions – would make for a curious case study, but the Ulsterman is aiming for equilibrium as he heads into British Open which gets under way at Muirfield tomorrow.
McDowell’s last competitive stroke came at the French Open a week-and-a-half ago, where – a week after failing to survive the cut at the Irish Open – he completed a third success of the season, to add to his Volvo World Matchplay and Heritage Classic victories.
Now, for a change, he is hoping to get some momentum going. “They say, winning is a habit. It’s a contagious habit. It’s certainly a habit we like to get into. You can say my season this year has not really kind of been that way. I haven’t fed off my victories maybe the way I needed to the last few months,” said McDowell.
Certainly, McDowell’s preparations ahead of this 142nd edition of golf’s oldest championship can’t be faulted. Although he took some flak for the reasons behind missing out on last week’s Scottish Open, his observation that the tournament lacked “prestige” since its move to Castle Stuart from Loch Lomond prompting a full apology and a great deal of back-tracking. But the time spent working out angles and nuances at Muirfield should prove beneficial in his quest for a second career Major, to add to his breakthrough US Open win of 2010.
As someone raised, in a golfing sense, on the links of Valley course, mainly, and the sister championship links at Dunluce, McDowell – who finished fifth behind Ernie Els at Lytham last year – is of the opinion that this championship along with the US Open represents his best opportunity to win another Major.
As he put it, “I think the links -style golf is in my blood and I always feel like I revert back well to it. I naturally and instinctively can play well in the wind.
“I have a fairly good instinct for the short game, and I’m a very good pace putter, the things I’ve learned growing up, I suppose.”
Going into the US Open at Merion last month, McDowell was burdened with great expectations. It led to a missed cut, just as he had experienced at the Masters in Augusta.
Two Majors, two missed cuts so far this season.
“I’ve probably never gone into a Major feeling as tipped -up and as heavily-billed as I was going into Merion. I didn’t produce the goods. Certainly it has nothing to do with expectation levels from externals. It was probably a lack of golf and (being) under-golfed and it certainly wasn’t my own expectations; I just didn’t play very well.
“I’ve been around long enough to kind of know how to approach a week like this one. It’s a golf course which hopefully should set up well for me, premium and accuracy off the tee.
“And good iron play coming into the greens, and a lot of pace putting. I think this week is going to be very difficult to get close to these pin positions with it being so firm. You’re going to have to pace putt well and chip and putt well. So I’ll be ready.”
McDowell will play the first two rounds with Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen,
“I’ve played enough golf with Tiger Woods to know what to expect on Thursday and Friday. He’s the best player in the world and maybe the best player ever. So he’s the kind of guy you want to play with, especially on a week like this week, which I think will appeal to his tactical side of his game.
“This is certainly a game of chess this week, where you have to position your pieces and keep them in play. A little bit of reverse in that you’ve got to play a bit conservative off the tee and maybe a bit more aggressive into the greens. So certainly there won’t be a lot of drivers. I don’t see me hitting much more than five or six drivers out here. It’s a great tactician’s golf course.”
It should all add rather perfectly to the case study. Especially if the hot/cold, up/down formbook were to continue. G-Mac knows what sequence he would prefer. It is all about Ws – wins – for these guys.