McDowell to forgo par-3 event


Golf:US Open champion Graeme McDowell has decided to forgo this year's par-3 event on the eve of the US Masters in favour of watching the Champions League match between Manchester United and Chelsea.

The Portrush professional said he did not get an early enough tee time that would allow him to participate in today's traditional par-3 contest and catch the opening leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

"Unfortunately the par-3 does not fit my schedule this time around. I'm disappointed, but hopefully there will be more Masters tournaments," said world number five McDowell. "United don't get to play Chelsea too often in the Champions League, so it will be a lot of fun."

Thankfully for McDowell, an avid United supporter, no player who has won the par-3 contest has gone on to capture the green jacket the same week.

McDowell also said he is looking forward to the start of what he calls "the big show" - two rounds with Tiger Woods.

McDowell played with Woods in the third round two years ago and was outscored 70-73, but he was a very different player then and Woods does not have the same aura any more.

It was only last December that he lost a four-shot lead on the final day of the Chevron World Challenge in California and was beaten in a play-off by McDowell.

"I always say to Kenny, my caddie, when we are out there playing with him - at Doral (last month) or Chevron or Shanghai last year - that this is good practice for when it happens in the big shows.

"It doesn't get much bigger than the Masters. I feel like I've played with him enough now to where it's pretty normal once you get used to the whole buzz that surrounds him, especially inside the ropes.

"I've got to go and play my own game and let him play his game. I would have been intimidated a couple of years ago, but nowadays it's reasonably normal. I was expecting to get a draw somewhere along those lines this week."

This is McDowell's fourth Masters and only once has he made the cut, but he adds: "I'm very keen to have a great week. I've dreamt of putting the green jacket on my back and I'm definitely very driven to do the job.

"The more often I come here I feel like my awareness and my knowledge of this golf course continues to increase. It's probably as good as I felt this week on the course, really knowing the greens, knowing where I should be hitting it.

"I certainly don't feel under any added pressure to go win another major, but I feel like I've got the confidence and belief now. I've never really been blessed with a talent of a Rory McIlroy or a Tiger Woods or a Sergio Garcia or somebody like that.

"I've always had to work hard at my game. Things always came a little more difficult for me than other guys."

Now, though, he could be only a few days away from taking over as world number one.

"Not that I need any more incentive this week, but there you go - that would be nice."