Graeme McDowell is convinced his next win is just around the corner — and that it could happen at this week’s US PGA at Hazeltine.
The Portrush man has failed to capitalise on the headway he made last season when he won twice and became one of the stars of the European Ryder Cup team.
He has been solid rather than spectacular, especially when it has come to the three previous Majors this season.
“I was disappointed leaving the last two majors because I know I could have finished a lot better than I did,” he said after leaving the Bridgestone Invitational after finishing 45th.
“But I've been putting in the work and my game is gradually improving as the season progresses.
“Hopefully I can put it in top gear now. I really believe I'm close to putting in the big finishes and maybe getting the win.”
If his big breakthrough is to come this week, he will need a radical improvement on Firestone, which was set up fairly similarly to the way Hazeltine will be this week.
“I’ve made some good steps forward in my game so I am looking forward to seeing Hazeltine,” said McDowell.
“I’ve heard its long and the rough is similar to here. I enjoy the tough tests. That’s what you want to measure yourself by. I’m feeling fresh and ready to go, really.”
Darren Clarke was on holiday in America with his boys Connor and Tyrone when the word came through that he’d been invited to play in this week’s PGA.
He was the best of the Ulster trio at Firestone, an event he won in 2003, and says he’s feels not too far from that form now.
“ I haven’t played that badly all year and I’m very happy with my play from tee to green so if I can get a few putts to drop the scores will start coming,” he says.
“I couldn’t be more relaxed and refreshed so here’s hoping for a memorable week.”
It was something of a surprise to see Rory McIlroy drop to 29th in the world rankings from a high of 16 when he won the Dubai Desert Classic back in February.
Since then, though and despite a couple of good finishes at the Masters and the US Open – courtesy of two good fourth rounds whilst others faltered — he hasn’t really kicked on as he would have liked.
He needs to force his way into contention on Sunday afternoons much more often if he is to really become a force to be reckoned with in the biggest events — like this week.
Firestone last week should have suited his eye as a long and straight hitter, but he stumbled home in joint 68th place at ten over par after a closing 74.
He will be the first to admit that that isn’t good enough and improvements need to be made if he is to fulfil the potential he undoubtedly has.
McIlroy is one of the earlier starters on Thursday, out with former US Open champion Jim Furyk and Germany's Martin Kaymer.
McDowell plays with Australian Robert Allenby and American Justin Johnson while Clarke goes out with Americans Charles Howell III and Ryan Benzel.