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‘I’m not ready to walk away’: Graeme McDowell on year-long nightmare and revival chances at Irish Open

Former US Open champion claims he still has more to give in the game


Low confidence: Graeme McDowell has slumped to 167th in the world rankings. Credit: Getty Images

Low confidence: Graeme McDowell has slumped to 167th in the world rankings. Credit: Getty Images

Getty Images

Low confidence: Graeme McDowell has slumped to 167th in the world rankings. Credit: Getty Images

If lockdown came at a bad time for anyone in the golfing world, it was Graeme McDowell.

In the weeks preceding the true global outbreak of Covid-19, the 41-year-old had finished tied-fourth at the Sony Open and then won the Saudi International, holding off none other than then World No.1 Dustin Johnson to lift the title and reach 47th in the world rankings. He was one of the form players in world golf.

But then the pandemic hit, and since then it’s been a steady decline. McDowell’s best finish in a mainstream event since the return of golf 12 months ago has been 24th, he’s missed 19 cuts in 28 events and is now ranked 167th in the world.

In between, the former US Open champion switched coaches, which didn’t work out, and he has been named a vice-captain for Padraig Harrington’s European team for September’s Ryder Cup, which all but ends his faint hopes of making it as a player.

All things considered, you don’t blame him for admitting his confidence is pretty low coming into the Irish Open at Mount Juliet, but he’s still defiant in the face of adversity.

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“It’s just the mental side of the game that’s just not there. My expectation levels are high, so really trying to adjust that,” says McDowell.

“At this point, I really should be out here playing tournaments, enjoying myself, everything else is gravy from here. If I wasn’t to hit another shot here, it’s been a great run, it’s been a great career.

“But I’m not ready to walk away like this. I’m not ready to finish my career like this. I feel like I have the ability to continue to compete and play at a high level again.

“I’ve got things that I want to achieve, and it’s about kind of just refocusing on what does success look like for me now. It’s different from what it looked like 10 years ago and just making sure that I do a better job and give myself the ability to go on the golf course, relax, enjoy, the old cliché, get out of my own way.

“That’s kind of where I’m at right now. The game is probably closer than it looks on paper. Just not really putting numbers on the board, but I don’t really feel like I’m miles away.”

There is precedent this year alone that it’s not impossible to win after long droughts. Phil Mickelson won the US PGA at 51. Jordan Spieth claimed the Valero Texas Open after nearly four years without a win. Even Richard Bland, who McDowell will play the first two rounds with this week, won his first European Tour event at the 478th time of asking at the British Masters.

How desperately G-Mac would love to join them in the winner’s circle in Kilkenny this week, and he believes those recent victories prove it is within reach for him.

“One of the mistakes I made the last year is searching too deeply and trying to do things differently rather than focusing on the things that made me great to this point and trying to get better at those again,” he adds.

“It’s inspiring to see that guys can dig themselves out of holes. I’ve dug myself out of a hole a couple of times the last four or five years. There’s no reason why I can’t do it again.”

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