Irish Open 2015: Graeme McDowell aims to renew Major links
Graeme McDowell left the Irish Open and the Royal County Down course yesterday believing he had just taken a test tougher than any of the Major championships will provide him with this year.
The Portrush star hit a final round 75 (+4) to finish on seven over par which tied him in 30th position in his home tournament.
McDowell had suffered four bogeys before a double bogey at the 15th threatened to completely ruin his day, though to his credit he fought back to claim successive birdies at 16 and 17.
That put a big smile on his face.
Later this month he will hope to be grinning from ear to ear with another US Open triumph to follow up his Pebble Beach success five years ago.
The 2015 US Open begins in just over two weeks' time at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.
Like Royal County Down, it is deemed a links course, though McDowell can't see it being as difficult as what he experienced over the last four days in Northern Ireland.
"They always say make your preparation more difficult than the real thing, so I think this is going to be more difficult than the US Open," said McDowell.
"I can't see how it gets any tougher than this. I really don't. Obviously Chambers Bay is going to be a unique test but this was a unique test."
McDowell, of course, grew up playing links golf in his native Portrush.
He was honest enough to admit, however, that he has lost the knack of playing courses like Royal County Down and stated that he must get it back if he is ever to win the Open Championship.
"I grew up in this stuff and I'll be the first to admit I don't know how to play this anymore," said the 35-year-old.
"You lose the creativity and the art form that is playing golf in the wind.
"It's great to come out here and get punished for a few days and really play some raw golf and realise that you don't have the skill set you used to have and you might want to get it back if you want to win some Open Championships.
"This was a really good test for me this week. I really enjoyed it and it's going to prepare me well for the summer.
"I can't really imagine an Open Championship playing this difficult.
"This golf course is hard to start with and when you whip a breeze across it like we've had this week, that westerly wind has not helped us anywhere on the golf course.
"It's been a grind and it's been tough but it has also been a lot of fun."
Asked if, with the conditions, the course was too tricky, McDowell replied: "I'd say it's borderline too difficult. But what is too difficult? It's tough to quantify.
"It felt too difficult for me out there today. I couldn't get the ball in the fairway which is not a very good start.
"It's very hard out there. I think the European Tour did a nice job setting the course up, not getting too tough with the pins.
"This is just a hard golf course. I think it has some fantastic golf holes and I really enjoyed the atmosphere this year."
McDowell paid tribute to what his pal Rory McIlroy has achieved this week, not only in hosting the tournament but also attracting so many big names to play in it.
"I think it's been an incredible week. Everything that Rory's done this week elevating it is fantastic, bringing Dubai Duty Free on board and the crowds," he said.
"We have had massive support from the crowds and big thanks to them. Their support was incredible."
And on the future of the Irish Open, McDowell insisted that he would like to see the tournament return to the Royal County Down course and Royal Portrush, where it was staged in 2012.
McDowell said: "I'd love to see the Irish Open come back here. I'd love to see it go to Portrush.
"I enjoy playing up here in the north. I think the two golf courses that we have used the last few years have been incredible and the crowds and hospitality have been amazing.
"I think it has to be shared on both sides of the border. I say the border, hopefully we don't think that one exists any more really.
"From a golfing point of view there is no border.
"Let's take it to the best and greatest golf courses across Ireland and let's showcase this thing and keep driving it forward."
And so say all of us.