Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

McDowell now in right place to have the final say

Graeme McDowell is aiming to take the next step in his career by converting a strong start at a major into a concerted challenge at this weekend's US Open.

McDowell shot a one-under-par 69 yesterday at Bethpage Black as he completed a round that had begun 24 hours earlier, before play was washed out for the day after he’d played just seven holes.

The 29-year-old made up two shots following the restart as he continued his trend of having strong opening rounds in the majors, including twice holding the first-round lead in the last three Open Championships.

Those good starts have not yet translated into major success, but McDowell did finish this year's Masters in a tie for 17th to become best-placed European.

Now he is concentrating on getting himself further into the mix.

“That was one of my goals at the start of the year, putting myself in contention Sunday afternoon at a major,” McDowell said.

“I realise there's no point being up on the leaderboard now, but you're jockeying for position posting a nice number on Thursday — it's not going to hurt as long as I don't get ahead of myself mentally.

“I've got to stay in the present, keep doing what I'm doing all weekend and realise it's going to be a tough slog.”

Having won four times on the European Tour and played in the 2008 Ryder Cup, doing well in one of the majors is an obvious next step.

“I'm fascinated by the major challenge in general,” McDowell said.

“I think it's what we measure our games by. As you keep getting better you want to try to compete in these things as much as you possibly can.

“You're playing against the best players in the world on the toughest set-ups I've been intrigued by this set-up and trying to learn hard to prepare myself as well as I possibly can and obviously get my game as ready as I can for the toughest test. So I feel like I'm learning as I go along.”

Shooting a low round heading into a major certainly helps the cause and McDowell got a big boost, he said, when he claimed a tie for seventh at last week's St Jude Classic in Memphis having shot a final-round 63.

“Momentum's everything in this game,” McDowell said.

“Confidence is everything and coming in with a nice little number on my belt was certainly big.”

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