Thursday 22 February 2018

McDowell reaching for stars after US Open 'weight' lifted

Graeme McDowell hits from the rough during a pro-am round ahead of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart
Graeme McDowell hits from the rough during a pro-am round ahead of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart

Bernie McGuire , at Castle Stuart

If Graeme McDowell needs any incentive leading into the last two Major championships of the season, he won't want to dwell on the events of more than 250 years ago.

Each day on his way to Castle Stuart for this week's Barclay's Scottish Open, McDowell will be driven past one of the most sacred sites in Scotland -- Culloden Moor.

Under the command of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the highland broadsword rose and fell in the last futile attempt to restore the exiled Stuart kings to the British throne.

Castle Stuart itself looks out over a new conquest this week on the acclaimed Gil Hanse-designed layout some five miles to the east of Inverness.

"It's a very historic area of Scotland and if time permits, I'd love to go and visit Culloden," said McDowell.

"As for Castle Stuart, it's a fantastic new venue, and such ideal preparation for next week. It's a very beautiful course and it's going to be good for driving stats, as there's a couple of fairways out there if you miss you should be shot."


McDowell has had three weeks off since embracing new US Open champion Rory McIlroy on the 18th green at Congressional.

Last week, world No 9 McDowell got himself reacquainted with links golf, not only in preparation for this week's event but more importantly for next week's British Open.

"I switched back to links mode last week playing Portrush a few times and also playing County Down," he said.

"I also played nine holes at Royal St George's on Monday, and really I'm just getting the links vibe back again.

"But I'm just excited how I'm playing and how fresh I feel and these two weeks are very important to me, and then I'm across to the States till the middle of September for the US PGA and FedEx Playoffs."

The Scottish Open is McDowell's first event as a 'no longer' reigning Major champion, and while it would be foolish to rule out him becoming a multiple Major winner, McDowell has now drawn a line under that part of his career.

"The only negative impact the US Open had on me last year was it being a bit of a weight, dragging me back, and stopping me from looking forward," he said.

"It was also stopping me from setting new goals and motivating myself to be the best player I can be.

"I had a decent 12 months, I played well, I played very well for some six to eight months afterwards, but then had a sluggish three or four months.

"But that was inevitable and I'm very happy with my 12 months as US Open champion. I'm also very happy that weight has been removed and I'm looking forward to moving on and achieving more things in the game.

"Tasting that kind of success, you want more of it, so I'm excited. I'm feeling good."

But while a weight has been lifted from McDowell's shoulders, it's been transferred to McIlroy's.


And as Phil Mickelson's family headed off yesterday in search of the Loch Ness Monster, the American was asked if he thought it was too early to be labelling McIlroy, as some have, as the next Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods.

"It's hard to say, as his performance at the US Open was spectacular," said Mickelson

"But what Jack and Tiger have done throughout their career demands respect, too, and until somebody performs at that level for a decade, it's not fair to Jack or Tiger to compare anybody with them."

In one of the bigger Irish fields this season, McDowell, along with triple Major winner Padraig Harrington, will be part of a nine-strong Irish contingent in the Scottish event, which also boasts the top two world-ranked players in Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

Mickelson, who is grouped with Harrington for the first two rounds, heads a strong field of Americans including Ryder Cup colleague Matt Kuchar along with Ryan Moore, big-hitting Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker and recent Texas Open winner Brendan Steele.

Scottish Open, Live

Sky Sports 1, 10.30 & Sky Sports 2, 3.30

Irish Independent

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