Two years ago, Graeme McDowell made his Ryder Cup debut worrying about getting out on the course before Sunday’s singles matches.
Now the 31-year-old heads for Wales as the US Open champion, the last man to win at Celtic Manor and dreaming of playing in the first match on Friday morning alongside fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy.
“I’ll be feeling like an important cog in the team as opposed to wondering whether I was going to get a couple of games,” McDowell said.
“I know what to expect as well, what the week’s all about, what pressure there is on your time. It’s not like a normal tournament week when you do your own thing and practise when you want.
“You’ve got to do things with the team and your own practice is almost secondary. I’m hoping to play all five matches. I’ve got an obvious partner there in Rory, whether I play with him or not.
“Although I’ve played only one Ryder Cup I feel like I’m one of the more experienced players in the team in being a major champion and having won at Celtic Manor.”
That victory in June was part of a brilliant burst of form which saw McDowell finish second in the Madrid Masters, win at Celtic Manor seven days later with rounds of 64 and 63 at the weekend and then claim his first major title at Pebble Beach a fortnight later.
The celebrations were long, liquid and well deserved, but McDowell has knuckled down again and produced some consistent displays to reinforce the belief he will be a key member of Colin Montgomerie’s side in October.
And this time he is determined to be on the winning side after a highly creditable two and a half points out of four on his debut was not enough to prevent the United States reclaiming the trophy at Valhalla.
“Probably my favourite spin-off from winning the US Open is being on the team,” added McDowell, who beat Stewart Cink in a singles match at Valhalla which subsequently produced two major champions.
“I felt like I had something taken away from me last time. I played well, but we didn’t win. I want to win it.
“I’ve thought about Rory and I being the first pair out on the Friday morning and that’s something I’d like to do. I’d love it, but there are going to be plenty of guys lining up to play with Rory.
“I’m an obvious partner for him. Maybe it’s too obvious a partnership, perhaps Monty will split us up, but there’s not a guy on the team I wouldn’t want to play with.”
McDowell and McIlroy would indeed seem an obvious pairing for Montgomerie, especially after they won three of their four matches together at the Vivendi Trophy last year before going out first and second in the singles and winning those matches as well.
But McDowell proved at Valhalla he can be versatile too, playing with Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ian Poulter, earning a half in foursomes with Jimenez and a fourballs victory with Poulter.
Whoever he plays with, the one thing for certain is that McDowell will enjoy the experience.
“The last three holes when I won at Loch Lomond (the 2008 Barclays Scottish Open) was the most nervous I’ve ever been on a golf course. Probably the Ryder Cup was a close second,” he added.
“I went into the last one a bit anxious, it was into the unknown. This one I’m really excited about, playing in front of a home crowd and I think we’re going to have an unbelievable team.”