Graeme McDowell might have slipped from fourth to 89th in the world over the past six years, but he insists he still has the grit, the tactical talent and the patience to contend for his second US Open crown at Erin Hills.
The 37-year old Portrush man might not be the world’s biggest hitter, but he’s convinced that golfing intelligence and mental strength can trump power this week and he’s optimistic about his chances of ending his seven-year wait for major number two.
With 10 top-30 finishes from 13 starts this year, McDowell’s form isn’t stellar at first glance, but it gives him cause for optimism: “I feel like I have played some pretty good stuff and just haven’t had that X-factor which is putting 72 holes together on a given week, it is just been about trying to stay patient,” he said.
“I have got into some weekends and perhaps got a little tighter because I haven’t been in that position for a little while, maybe wanting it a bit too much perhaps.”
If there’s a characteristic that sums up McDowell it’s grit and that’s something he’s never lost.
Confidence is the ingredient that sparks the magic McDowell’s game and he’s not ready to walk off into the sunset just yet.
“It is still there,” he said. “To be gritty, to be confident under pressure requires a lot of belief in yourself from what you are doing and where you are at in the game.
“I have done a lot of work in a lot of areas to try and get that back again, to be able to believe in yourself when the chips are down.
“It requires a lot of hard work and discipline and good thought and I feel like I have put myself into position the last couple of months and haven’t quite believed in myself enough, I’m recognising that and addressing it.
“I have felt a lot better the last few weeks and coming into a week like this where I have memories from seven years ago fresh in my mind, you get that little bit of inspiration, coming back to a tournament you’ve won, especially one this big.
“I don’t think this golf course is out of my league from a length point of view at all. I think there is enough to this week for a player like me to be able to compete with some of these longer hitters.”
Erin Hills measures a forbidding 7,741 yards from the very tips but McDowell knows that the USGA will mix and match when it comes to choosing which tees to use and that gives the Ulsterman a fighting chance of getting in the mix.
Unsure whether the winning score will be close to level par or deep in the red, he calls the Wisconsin monster — the second longest course in US Open history — “a bit of an unknown quantity still.”
“Yes you look at it and you initially assume long length, bombers; but there is a lot of strategy involved still, there are so many teeing options it is going to be interesting to see what the USGA does,” he said.
“There is a lot of tactics still involved, it is not just a bombs away.”
As for his thoughts of winning another major, he still dares to dream of a second day in the sun.
“I’d feel different about it,” he said.
“Maybe it came to me in 2010 a little earlier than I expected but there is no doubt I had a dream and I believed that I had the game to win a major championship.
“You could say that dream is starting to form again, that I’d like to win another one. I’m working hard, stay patient and I would love to win another one before I am all done.”
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