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Graeme McDowell vows to make most of second chance at golf's top table


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High riser: Graeme McDowell has surged up to 47th in the world rankings

High riser: Graeme McDowell has surged up to 47th in the world rankings

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High riser: Graeme McDowell has surged up to 47th in the world rankings

Graeme McDowell believes he will have a greater appreciation for the trappings of success after experiencing "life on the outside".

McDowell's victory in the Saudi International lifted him from 104th in the world rankings to 47th, less than a year after the 2010 US Open champion found himself a lowly 257th.

That gives the 40-year-old Portrush man entry into the lucrative World Golf Championship events, along with a first Masters appearance since 2016 if he remains in the top 50 at the end of March.

"I think I was in the top 50 in the world for, I don't know, five, six years," McDowell said in a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he won the US Open in 2010.

"And when you're on the outside looking in, when you're not in those WGCs and the majors, they nearly have a self-perpetuating world-ranking cycle and the top 50 feels an awfully long way away.

"At 47 you could be one week away from falling back outside of that, so obviously establishing myself into the top 30, top 20, that's what I really want.

"But I think this will pretty much get me in Mexico in a couple of weeks' time, pretty much guaranteed World Match Play, which is really important to me, and I think Memphis as well.

"So just to be back in those, I think I'll appreciate them a lot more this time around.

"I think all those years where it's expected, maybe you don't appreciate what it is and what they are and how important they are at the time.

"I always felt like if I ever got the opportunity again I was really going to appreciate it and never take it for granted and prepare well and make sure I continue to work hard, because you just don't know when this is going to go away.

"I think that's probably the biggest thing, the last three or four years, was just realising that you're not invincible and that this sport is very fickle and it will go away some day.

"I think I tasted that little bit of mortality, probably this time last year, and I realised that if I ever got the chance again that I was going to work hard and do the best that I possibly could with that opportunity."

G-Mac will enjoy plenty of happy memories on the 10th anniversary of his US Open triumph at Pebble Beach, where Phil Mickelson defends his title fresh from finishing third behind McDowell in Saudi Arabia.

"Lots of great memories that week, of course, but (the best is) probably coming up the last and just having two putts from 25 feet to win a US Open," McDowell added.

"You visualise that as a kid standing on the putting green and then, all of a sudden you're like, 'Well, yeah, I've got two to win a major championship here'."

Meanwhile, Australia's Lucas Herbert insists the celebrations for his maiden European Tour title are on hold as he targets more silverware on home soil.

Herbert birdied the second extra hole to beat South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout in a play-off for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the end of January.

The 24-year-old's mind quickly turned to "a bottle of scotch back home in Australia" that he could not wait to open to mark the occasion with friends, but the party had to be kept under control with this week's ISPS Handa Vic Open in mind.

"I don't turn up to any tournament just to enjoy it," Herbert said. "You want to win every event you tee it up in. I'm definitely not here this week for a bit of a party with my friends.

"I've got next week off and then I'm playing two in a row and then I've got a pretty nice stretch off.

"I know in the back of my mind I've got some celebrating to do coming up, but right now it's business time and we're going to go and do the things I need to do to play well.

"My game's good. I played well this morning (yesterday's pre-event pro-am), so it's just a case of trying to shake off a bit of jet-lag from the travel in Saudi Arabia last week.

"The course is good, I've been here enough times to sort of know what's going on, where they like to put all the pins and how it kind of plays. You get pretty much any wind direction out there, so having a lot of experience is going to be really helpful if the weather behaves or not over the weekend."

The tournament is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and LPGA and features men and women playing on the same courses at the same time, for equal prize money.

Former world number one Stacy Lewis is competing in Australia for the first time since 2014 and would like to see more such events on the schedule.

"I hope this tournament sends a message across the world to let's do more events like this," Lewis said. "I've had a lot of fun this week so far. I played a practice round with three guys (on Tuesday) and am just doing it a little different than I normally do it.

"But I think we need more events like this. Obviously, we've got some of the top females here, but we need more of the top guys here to step up and say, you know, this is important.

"It just sends such a great message for supporting men's and women's golf. One of the guys I played with (on Tuesday) talked about how us coming on board has elevated their purse as well. So I think it's a win-win for both Tours."

Belfast Telegraph