Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Irish Open: Has Graeme McDowell lost his touch?

Graeme McDowell goes in search of better form at the Irish Open yesterday

Graeme McDowell remains defiant in the face of growing concerns that he has lost his golden touch.

The former US Open champion’s increasing frustration since winning his first Major at Pebble Beach continued in Killarney yesterday.

The excitement has suddenly gone from his game and his body language on the opening day of the Irish Open told its own story.

McDowell laboured to a one over par 72 on the beautifully manicured Killeen Course, showing few signs that his next win could be just around the corner.

G-Mac is obviously suffering but still insists on looking on the bright side of life.

Cynics would have you believe he has shot his bolt and has been partying too much as he struggles to get his game back on track.

He was a mere spectator as close pal Darren Clarke turned back the clock to win The Open.

McDowell went into the biggest Major of them all with high hopes but didn’t even make the cut at Royal St George’s.

He was blown off course by the buffeting winds and was left to watch Clarke break his own Major duck from the comfort of an armchair in Portrush.

Changed times indeed.

Everything he touched turned to gold in 2010 and besides the glory and the euphoria of his stateside Major triumph |(pictured) he could also boast two additional wins on the European Tour.

Celebrations were the order of the day when he romped across the line at The Celtic Manor Wales Open and also in the Andalucia Valderrama Masters. He even charged to a sensational play-off win over Tiger Woods at the Chevron World Challenge.

Then he was in golfing heaven.

Everything in the McDowell garden was rosy. He didn’t have a care in the world.

He also had wonderful memories of his heroics as he returned to Wales to help Europe spank the Yanks in the Ryder Cup.

Now suddenly the success cycle has turned full circle. Little things are driving him mad.

Like many looking in from the outside, G-Mac is left to wonder when his fortunes will change.

Killarney was certainly no happy hunting ground yesterday.

McDowell made a steady enough start and after passing up the chance of a birdie on the first he continued to par the next seven holes before conceding another shot to reach the turn on one over.

He dropped another shot at 11 but successive birdies on 14 and 15 seemed to ignite a spark.

Maybe this was the start of something good.

But no. He blocked his tee shot on the par five 16th, ended up under a gorse bush and dropped another shot to finish one over for the tournament.

Not a disaster by any means but even the usually positive McDowell conceded: “It was pretty mediocre all round.

“I wasn’t hitting enough fairways. I wasn’t missing them by much, a couple of yards, but that just kind of took the control out of my hands.

“I was a little wide off the tee and I just couldn’t quite get it close enough to the holes on the greens.

“I was able to steady the ship with the two birdies and I felt then I could finish in red figures.

“Now I need to go low in the second round to give myself a shot at the weekend.”

McDowell blames his intense desire to compete for his recent disappointments.

He argues: “I’m in one of those modes just now where I have to stay patient and let it happen.

“I’ve been guilty of trying too hard and sometimes when you try and force it you suffer.

“It’s just that I desperately want to compete. I came into 2011 promising myself not to have huge expectations.

“Of course I want to live up to 2010 and prove to people I can still do it but when you start pushing it in this game it isn’t really the way to play.”

But then being a positive individual he insisted: “I can still get myself into a position for the weekend. And I’ve a very exciting schedule ahead of me which I’m really looking forward to.

“In the meantime I need to get my relaxed attitude back to take the pressure off.”

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