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McDowell's ambition to be number one

by Paul Ferguson

Wind-battered Graeme McDowell last night immediately zeroed his radar in on becoming Europe's No.1 after a "brutal" experience at Royal Birkdale.

Twenty eight-old McDowell who was joint leader of the Open Championship on Thursday evening, was left deflated and frustrated as 50mph gale force winds on Saturday ruined his chances of lifting the Claret Jug.

Well placed on Friday evening – he enjoyed opening rounds of 69 and 73 to leave himself on two over par for the championship - McDowell carded an embarrassing 80 on the third day to effectively end his Open dream.

The Portrush lad hit back yesterday with a fine final round 72, but it was not enough to make any impression on the leaderboard.

His prize money though did increase, to around £38,000, and that could have a major bearing on who wins the European Order of Merit title come November.

For McDowell, thanks largely to his tour victories at the Ballantine's and Scottish Opens this year, currently lies in second position - 271,084.19 euro behind leader Miguel Angel Jimenez.

That financial difference however will be reduced this morning as the hugely popular Spanish star failed to make the cut this week and therefore didn't earn a penny at Royal Birkdale.

Two big money events for G-Mac are also coming up over the next three weeks – Firestone's World Golf Championship and the USPGA Championship at Oakland Hills – and are ideal tournaments in which to close the gap.

The Order of Merit has to be a target," confessed G-Mac last night, who would become the first Northern Irish golfer since Ronan Rafferty in 1989 to be confirmed as Europe's No.1 if reaching that target.

"You are not really going to get too many chances to win one unless of course you are Colin Montgomerie.

"I've never really had a chance to chase it, it's a special title and I'm delighted to be in the mix. It's definitely going to affect my schedule towards the end of the season.

"I've now got to re-set my goals a bit and finishing as high up as possible is obviously one of my goals."

McDowell, considered by many to be guaranteed his place in Nick Faldo's European Ryder Cup team, has promised to return home this week, re-group and come back a stronger player after his third round nightmare at Royal Birkdale.

And with the Bridgestone and the final major of the year coming up over the next three weeks, it's imperative McDowell is firing on all cylinders once again.

"I've shown over the last couple of weeks that I'm good enough to win tournaments and titles – Saturday was a back down to earth day but I know I've got the game now so after little bit of relaxation I'll be ready to go in the States," admits McDowell.

"I was more disappointed that the conditions took me out of play on Saturday. If the conditions had been similar to the final round then maybe I would have had a chance.

"It is probably because I knew I had it in the tank this week that I'm so annoyed – to throw it away around the greens was even more frustrating. You don't mind if you hit it in the rough and have a couple of slashes or maybe drive it badly and shoot a number.

"And what's so difficult to accept, is that I consider one of my strengths to be pace-putting.

"But I'll shake off my disappointment and move on.

"It's been a great a three weeks for me and I've no complaints. I came to a major, strung three rounds together and apart from Saturday, I had my chances.

"Disappointed yes overall but really the conditions were absolutely brutal. I'll really just have to learn from this experience.

"I've now got two big couple of weeks coming up and I'm looking forward to getting back out to the States and seeing how my game compares.

"The Ryder Cup thing is a massive weight off my mind as it gives me a chance to go and concentrate on playing my own game, world ranking points and performing against the best players in the world in the grandest

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