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McDowell relishing US Open defence

Graeme McDowell is relishing defending his US Open title next week - despite finishing off the pace at a wet and windy Celtic Manor.

Northern Irishman McDowell's hopes of retaining the Saab Wales Open crown disappeared with a miserable third-round 81 on Saturday. He concluded the tournament by carding a par 71, but was on his way home for a short break in Portrush as the competition reached its climax.

But although McDowell's closing two rounds at Celtic Manor were a total of 25 shots worse than his devastating 64-63 finish last year, he remains in an upbeat mood ahead of teeing off at Washington's Congressional course on Thursday week. He said: "I am heading back to Portrush for three days just to put the feet up and chill and recharge the batteries."

He added: "Then I am out to Orlando on Thursday, have a weekend's practice and up to Congressional probably next Sunday night. It's going to be tough. I saw the golf course a few weeks back - it looked very long and demanding that day - but hopefully it has firmed up a little bit.

"It should be a great week. I am looking forward to defending."

McDowell will not be reaching for the panic button following a rare sobering experience after the champagne moments Celtic Manor provided him with last year through the Wales Open and Ryder Cup successes.

He added: "The damage was done on Saturday and the final round was about trying to go out and repair some of the damage. I played quite nicely. I struck the ball well. I had a disappointing finish (he bogeyed the 18th), but generally hit the ball good.

"I am not disturbed about my game in any shape or form. My game is in good shape, it's firing on all cylinders. Of course, I have work to do between now and Congressional, but Saturday was just a bit of an anomaly. I lost the feel of my swing a little bit."

Saturday's performance equalled the two worst rounds of his European Tour career - 81s at Valderrama in 2002 and the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst.

It is also less than a month since he collapsed from first to 33rd with a closing 79 at the Players Championship in Florida.

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