GRAEME MCDOWELL waved farewell to 2011 last night with a sigh of relief having failed to meet expectations after his stellar 2010 campaign when he claimed the US Open and gave an important contribution to Europe’s Ryder Cup defeat of the United States.
G-Mac, as he likes to be known, joined fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy for an end of season lunch in Dublin yesterday set up by Horizon Sports, the Dublin-based company that runs their affairs since they split with Chubby Chandler’s International Sports Management.
It was hardly surprising McIlroy was the focus of most attention, a state of affairs that didn’t faze McDowell who, while talking up his own prospects for the coming season, was more than happy to look back on the manner in which Rory reacted to his melt down in the final round of the Masters.
“What he did at Congressional after the Masters was very impressive,” McDowell agreed.
“It just shows how good his attitude is. He is a quietly intelligent golfer. He’s got that young, kind of bounce-back in him and has a great attitude to the sport. And that’s what you need. What turns good players into great players is attitude.
“Rory has always been a great player and his attitude has always been right except that he is now getting smarter and learning how to win and he’s going to be pretty dangerous next season. Yeah, the way he bounced back after the Masters was very special. He had one of those days at Augusta where everything he touched just went wrong.
“And, you know, he didn’t really play a bad front nine. Obviously, 10 was a hugely bad break and you start chasing after that and it was just horrible.
“I think Rory has been bred for this moment. He has been a superstar for a lot of years even if he is only 22. He has been dealing with the kinds of things I dealt with this year. I guess he’s been dealing with that since he turned pro.
“He’s been groomed for stardom if you like and I think he’ll be able to handle the expectation and the pressure better than someone like myself who kind of happened to be good at golf and kept getting to the next level.
“I never had these wild dreams of being a major champion only for them to become achievable and come true. Every player is different but I imagine Rory will handle it a lot better. Not to say, I handled it very badly in any of the major championships or anything like that but it certainly affected my golf game and I don’t think it will affect his game like it affected mine.”
Having been so gracious to his good friend and predicted great things for him over the next 12 months, McDowell was far from dismissing the possibility that he himself might well get back to his stellar year of 2010.
He agreed the first six months were a long way short of what he had been hoping for but insisted the second half of the season was a whole lot better and put him in a good position to retain his Ryder Cup place.
“If I had this year three or four years ago, I’d have been pretty satisfied,” he mused.
“All of a sudden, I’ve slipped from sixth to 13th in the world and I’d have gone ‘wow, what a bad year that was!’ You realign your expectations a little bit and expectations are very dangerous things. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I handle myself.
“I’m very happy with my game, my technique, my equipment, my fitness levels, my health, my mental health. These are all key components. I feel like my ducks are lined up again when a few of them were all over the place for much of the early part of the year.” He didn’t hesitate when asked if he would be disappointed if he was sitting in the same place in 12 months and hadn’t added a major to the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2010.
“A season doesn’t revolve around winning major championships,” he reasoned.
“It revolves around consistency and competing. But I feel my game is suited to the majors, maybe Augusta less so than the other three even though I’m learning the nuances of the place every year I go there. If I can put myself into contention in one or two of those, it will be mission accomplished.
“If I look back in hindsight and turn back the clock 12 months and start 2011 all over again — and not that I’d want to — I would probably take two months off, really have a break, miss out on Hawaii and Abu Dhabi, and come back at the end of February ready to go again. And remember, I’m talking about two events where I finished third. This year has been a great learning curve for me,
“I feel like I’m coming out of it stronger. I’m going to put the feet up back in Portrush over Christmas and have a few scoops but come January 1 I’m back in the gym, back on the range and going for it.”
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