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Irish Open 2015: Northern Ireland's 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell player profile

By Peter Hutcheon

It is strange to think that in any other era Graeme McDowell would probably be the pre-eminent Ulster sportsman of his generation.

He’s a man with a major, a US Open, to his name, numerous victories around the world and has become the absolute bedrock of the European Ryder Cup team.

But you will never hear him complain that countrymen Rory McIlroy or Darren Clarke have stolen his thunder. Far from it, he’s more than happy to play his part in Northern Ireland’s rise to become the unofficial golfing capital of the world.

That has seen the Irish Open venture first to his home town of Portrush – with the holy grail of the Open Championship to follow – and now the tournament being staged at Royal County Down for the first time.

It is no coincidence that big time golf has returned with such a vengeance now that the place boasts three major winners.

McDowell has the uncanny ability to pop up with a victory when he most needs one and it is that ability which has made him an ever present in the top 50 of the world rankings for so long now.

That, in turn, guarantees him entry into the the majors and World Golf Championships and helps keep his career ticking over.

Once upon a time players would have been more than content to end their careers with just the one major to his name, but McDowell set out to his stall to become a multiple major winner no sooner had he won that US Open at Pebble Beach in 2010.

And, in truth, he could have done so by now, missing chances at the same event two years later and then the Open Championship a couple of months after that.

The number 35 looms large for McDowell at the moment – it is both his age and his world ranking.

The former suggests there is plenty of gas left in the tank at the top end of the game; the latter that he could very well be doing with another victory at some point this season to preserve his place at the top table.

“I feel like I have been at a crossroads this year,” he said a little earlier in the season.

“I am trying to get myself back to the player I was and the way I thought rather than being this guy who is trying to be perfect and has less patience and gets frustrated and angered quicker than he ever did.

“I am trying to take a step back and realise that you are supposed to be happy when you get to this point.”

The thing abut McDowell is that his game is so uncomplicated that there is little to go wrong. And then when everything really clicks as it did at the Volvo World Matchplay two years ago in Bulgaria, there are few who can live with him.

He is a strong bet to win his national title one day and made a pretty good fist of it last year in finishing fifth at Cork’s Fota Island. His links knowledge must make him a strong contender at Royal County Down if he gets off to a decent start.

It will have been a huge relief to McDowell that Rory McIlroy’s legal battle with former sports agency Horizon never saw the inside of the courtroom as he had been dragged unwittingly into the dispute.

That had to put a strain on his relationship with the world number one, though their bond was so strong the controversy never threatened their friendship.

It has been a quiet start to the year for McDowell with just one top ten finish, the Dubai Desert Classic where he finished ninth.

Since then he has missed the cut at two PGA events in America, finished tied for 52nd in the Masters and went out of the World Matchplay in San Francisco after the group stage.

He faces a huge couple of months as he looks to arrest his slide in the world rankings with the US Open coming up next month and the Open Championship at St Andrews in July.

“I feel more motivated right now than I have in a long time,” he says.

“I have a great image in my head of winning tournaments and having my wife and kids waiting for me on the 18th green.

“That is one of the many things that is driving me on the range these days. We always ask ourselves if we are continuing to get better.

“I feel like I have more tools to do the job than I had a few years ago.

“I feel like I’m a smarter, more complete player.

“I know I have always had to work harder than the next guy.”

 

Facts

Age: 36

Location: Grew up in Portrush, lives in Florida

Biggest achievements: US Open 2010, Ryder Cup wins 2008, 2012, 2014

Best finish in an Irish Open: Joint 6th 2014)

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