Graeme McDowell's love for Augusta burns brightly despite a tough past
Graeme McDowell hopes that Paul McGinley's recent vote of confidence will be justified, if not at the Masters, then some time in the very near future.
Irish Olympic Golf team manager McGinley has taken careful note of McDowell's stats and likes what he sees. The Ulsterman fully agrees with that verdict. He is happy that his game is developing and goes into the Masters seeking further confirmation that his trend is upwards.
He does not, however, dare to dream yet that Augusta will yield to his charms and return the love he has for this tournament and this great golfing cathedral.
After eight appearances in the Masters, it remains a case of unrequited love. McDowell said: "I still love it. I'm just here with a smile on my face, just having some fun. I'm going to play three weeks in a row, and this is probably the least of my three chances.
"The game is in good shape. I think I've got some departments of my game that are in good shape, one being my iron play and one being my short game.
"I feel like I'm really chipping it well and my bunker play is in good shape. Those two things are really helping me, and I'm focussing a lot harder on my putting."
The 2010 US Open champion is a 13-time winner worldwide, including three PGA tour events, the most recent being the OHL Classic in Mayakoba last November. His Augusta form, however, has been disappointing. McDowell has made only three cuts, with a best result of tied-12 in 2012. Last year he finished tied-52.
Hope springs eternal in McDowell, and he exuded confidence as he stood in the shade of the famous big tree in front of the clubhouse where media and players mingled, prior to playing a practice round with Shane Lowry yesterday.
"Quietly within our camp, we see big things on the horizon. We like where we're going and we like the way our stats are trending. We like the things that we're seeing, very much so," he said.
Time does not diminish the special feeling that comes with teeing it up in the Masters, particularly for McDowell.
"You're always in awe of the place, there is an inherent respect that players have that I don't think they have for a lot of courses. Respect for the members, respect of the traditions and the history," he added.
"There are not many golf courses in the world like this, maybe St Andrews, maybe Pebble (Beach) to a certain extent where you feel a bit differently, and you can feel the history of the game coursing through the trees and the people around it.
"They've maintained the tradition and the history while keeping the course up to speed with modern standards. It's a great test of golf and it's a great traditional tournament.
McDowell's mantra for the week is 'attitude'. He spoke of an acceptance that the course does not suit his game, but has sought to shift the balance of probabilities in his favour by concentrating on the short game.
He said: "I'm focusing on chipping and putting this year.
"Rather than being obsessed by the intricacies of getting from tee to green, I'm more obsessed about in and around the greens."