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I'm here to win, not relive past glories: G-Mac

 

Water view: Graeme McDowell on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach yesterday
Water view: Graeme McDowell on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach yesterday

By Phil Casey

Graeme McDowell insists he will not be content to simply enjoy a trip down memory lane as he returns to the scene of his US Open triumph at Pebble Beach.

McDowell took advantage of a collapse from 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson nine years ago to win his first - and so far only - Major by a single shot from France's Gregory Havret, with Ernie Els third and Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sharing fourth place.

The 39-year-old will partner Johnson and Mickelson in the first two rounds on the Monterey Peninsula this week and comes into the event with a win under his belt this season and having qualified for next month's Open Championship in his home town of Portrush courtesy of his finish at the Canadian Open on Sunday.

"Four or five months ago if you told me I'd be playing the first two rounds here with Dustin and Phil, with the way my game was, I would have been intimidated," said G-Mac.

"But with the victory (in the Dominican Republic in March) and some good finishes, the confidence is coming back and I feel very good about my game.

"It goes without saying I won once around here, I obviously feel like my game suits this golf course.

"And I'm certainly not here to take the views in as much as I'm here to compete. I'm looking forward to the challenge of trying to dissect this golf course and getting myself in position to contend this weekend.

"I've been working hard on my game the last couple of years and one of my big goals is to get myself back there on the back nine on Sunday afternoon in the not too distant future.

"I'd love another run at the top of the game, get myself back in the top 50 in the world and see if I can maybe get another big one (title) before it's all said and done."

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods hopes he has another 10 years to win Majors and break Jack Nicklaus's record haul of 18, but admits he will need plenty of help.

Woods told Nicklaus "I'm done" at the Champions Dinner ahead of the 2017 Masters, but subsequently underwent career-saving spinal fusion surgery and won his 15th Major title at Augusta National in April.

"Hypothetically if I give myself another 10 years that's 40 Majors," Woods said at Pebble Beach, where he won the 2000 US Open by an incredible 15 shots.

"The trick is can I keep myself healthy and strong enough considering what my body has been through? That's where I need help with all my trainers and physios and workout regimes, and hopefully I can make that happen."

Woods did not compete between the Masters and the US PGA Championship at Bethpage, where he suffered from an unspecified illness before missing the cut.

"Augusta I was right where I needed to be," Woods added.

"Bethpage, a different story. I was good going into the week, unfortunately just didn't feel well.

"And this week I feel like I'm trending in the right direction. I need one more day of prep. I want to see the golf course when it's a little bit closer to game time.

"I know they're holding it back. But I just want to see how much are they going to let it go and show us how it's going to be come Thursday."

Elsewhere, Brooks Koepka is not exactly short of motivation as he aims to complete a rare hat-trick of US Open victories and claim a fifth Major title in just nine appearances.

But the World No.1 has a fresh chip on his shoulder at Pebble Beach after a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in a television advert promoting the season's third Major championship.

A trailer for the American host broadcaster Fox features images from Nicklaus's victory at Pebble Beach in 1972, Tom Watson's 10 years later and a shot from Woods in 2010, the year he finished fourth behind McDowell.

Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and six-time runner-up Mickelson are also pictured, while Koepka is seen briefly at the end of the 30-second clip and is not mentioned by name.

Asked where the chip on his shoulder comes from, Koepka said: "I think a very little bit of it was me putting it on there.

"But I think a lot of it just comes from certain things. There's a commercial running now where I'm not even in it.

"I wasn't on the list of notables (on day one of the 2018 US Open) after winning it the year before. There's a couple of things where it's just mind boggling...it's like, really? Like, how do you forget that?

"I was just shocked (at the advert). They've had over a year to put it out. Somebody probably got fired over it - or should."

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