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Graeme McDowell targets world's top 20 and another major battle after 'expected' European Tour victory

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Graeme McDowell is a winner on the European Tour for the first time since 2015.

Graeme McDowell is a winner on the European Tour for the first time since 2015.

AP

Graeme McDowell is a winner on the European Tour for the first time since 2015.

He's not where he once was but he's not yet where he's intending to go either.

For those who thought Graeme McDowell's big European Tour win on Sunday meant it was destination reached in the 40-year-old's renaissance, the man himself offered a differing perspective.

His Saudi International success catapulted McDowell from 104th to 47th in the world rankings, inside the top 50 for the first time since 2015.

It's just 11 months since the 2010 champion found himself outside the globe's top 260 golfers but he isn't planning to slow down his progress.

His eye is fixed (at least) another 27 places up the list, at the world's top 20 golfers.

"It felt a long way ahead of me," he admitted of his ambitious target. "I think I've sort of broken that top 50 barrier probably three, four, six months faster than I thought I could.

"I knew it was going to be a journey. I had kind of geared my mind for patience.

"I want another chance at a major championship on the back nine on a Sunday. It's a lofty goal and there are going to be a lot of steps between there and now, but this (win) really gives me the kick-on that I need."

It also means McDowell has now secured a top 25 finish in six of his last eight events. It's safe, at this stage, to say it's no flash in the pan.

"This is a weird win because I've kind of felt it coming," he explained. "Not a lot of my wins in my career have been like I expected. There was a certain sense of expectation with this one. I felt like it was part of my journey back, in that sense. I'm playing well enough to win and if a win gets in the way, it's great, it's going to be a steppingstone.

"I'm trying to look at the bigger picture where, you know, I need to keep cranking on and I need to have weeks like these where I'm competing against the best in the world."

It will be 10 years in June since McDowell lifted the US Open Trophy.

When he fell out of the world's top 50 midway through the decade, his return felt a pipedream, that day at Pebble Beach seemingly destined to be the clear standout of his entire career.

But now? Not necessarily.

"Kevin (Kirk - new coach) said to me, 'There's no reason why the best golf in your career can't still be ahead of you'. I like that. I like that kind of idea. I like that focus.

"It's been ten years probably since I played the best golf of my life. I feel like I'm moving back in the right direction.

"I've got my head around what I'm trying to do with the swing and what I'm trying to do with the golf ball again, thanks to Kevin, and Pete Cowen who has been by my side for many, many years. Kenny (Comboy) on the bag there; I have a solid team.

"Life's settled down. I've got a great wife and great family. I'm very happy with what's going on in my life right now. I feel like the ripples in the pond have kind of steadied out a little bit now, and I'm in a good place to play some good golf."

It's a finely-poised balance, playing good golf. The mechanics and the mindset must match and that still, small voice can make or break it all.

"There's a lot of self-talk that goes on," said McDowell. "It's a lot like life. You're out there trying to tell yourself stories all the time, stay in the moment, stay in the present, you've got this.

"You're talking to yourself all the time, and it's just about the quality of that talk. If I start to tell myself, 'hey, this is a really lofty goal you have yourself here, these guys are really good, maybe you're not good enough anymore, you're old, you're not in really good shape, you're a bit fat and maybe you're not very good'; if that was the quality of my talk, yeah, I'm going to have a tough time getting there.

"But the things I've been saying to myself the last six months, I've been way, way better than they have been in a long time and I think that's really all it boils down to, that combined with some hard work and some good preparation and a bit of luck, you know. It's really about the attitude."

The attitude, the swing, the ability to get it done. It's all coming together but there's a long way still to go.

Belfast Telegraph