McDowell thrilled by Irish Open's' Who's Who' status
Graeme McDowell heartily welcomed the transition of the Irish Open from a 'Who's He?' tournament to a 'Who's Who' featuring a hefty dollop of the cream of world golfing talent.
"We haven't seen a field like this at the Irish Open for many years, since back in its heyday," he said.
The former US Open winner is now living in America, and appreciates that the game has gone international in a way that didn't happen ten or 15 years ago.
Players can gain massive financial rewards, particularly on the PGA Tour, and as the European Tour has also spread its wings to take in other continents, tournaments such as the Irish Open have suffered.
"A lot of the Opens, I suppose, on The European Tour, the really famous Opens that used to attract the biggest and greatest players in the world, have lost their identity.
"It's great to see the Irish Open being one of the first to start putting these events back on the map as premier events on the European Tour.
"You look at the list of winners in events like these back in the '80s and '90s and it's a Who's Who. The fields have not been a Who's Who the last ten years.
"There's a lot of golf to play around the world and events like this have lost sponsors and lost slots in schedules.
"As Irish players, we have been really driving hard to try and get sponsors, and get a great spot on the schedule and showcase golf courses like Royal County Down and show people what we have here.
"This is great. This is really a huge step in the right direction towards what we want the Irish Open to look like," said McDowell.
The Portrush native freely credits the work done by Rory McIlroy to present the tournament as a premier event on the golfing calendar.
Now his attention is focused on producing the kind of performance he avidly desires in front of the Irish galleries.
"When you hole a putt in Ireland it has a different reaction from the crowd to every before else in the world.
"It's special to play here in front of the home fans.
"Historically, I have not played well in this tournament.
"A lot of that is down to me wanting it too badly and wanting to perform for the home fans too much, and maybe that expectation level has just been a little too high.
"It's been a quiet year and I would love to kick start my summer off with a big week here at the Irish Open.
"I've been working really hard on my game and I really feel like it's turning the corner. This would be a perfect way to start out the summer," he said.
Ambition and hope is one thing, delivering the goods is another and much depends on the fickle finger of fate, particularly given the adverse weather forecast for the next few days.
"I could go out there tomorrow morning at 8.0 o'clock, and the tournament could be over by midday.
"If you get on the wrong side of the draw; if you get strong wind and cold rain and get overpowered, it could be over early, so you need a little bit of good fortune and a good bounce of the ball," said McDowell.