Tuesday 20 March 2018

Graeme McDowell hoping to tick Irish Open off his "bucket list" this week

Graeme McDowell during a press conference at the Irish Open today
Graeme McDowell during a press conference at the Irish Open today

Phil Casey

Graeme McDowell will attempt to put his US Open nightmare behind him by ticking an item off his golfing "bucket list" this week.

McDowell was among the favourites at Merion a fortnight ago given his two tournament victories this year and superb US Open record - he was second last year after his victory in 2010 - but missed the cut after rounds of 76 and 77.

However, the 33-year-old has the ideal opportunity to bounce back in the Irish Open at Carton House, which also boasts the likes of Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in the field.

"There's no doubt the Irish Open is on my golfing bucket list," McDowell said. "It's an event that I've never really competed in. It's an event I would love to win and I would love to add it to my CV.

"To win your national Open is a very special win in a player's heart. It's been almost 70 years since a Northern Irish player has won this event (Fred Daly in 1946). That's a stat we would love to change this weekend.

"There's no doubt I would love to win this one. It's certainly one I'll be giving 100 per cent to this week.

"It kicks off a very busy summer of golf for me and Merion has done nothing but motivate me and make me more hungry for being in the mix come the weekend. I'm ready to go this week and I'm looking forward to it."

McDowell also missed the cut at the Masters and admits he got his preparation for both major championships wrong, but he will not be adding the Scottish Open to his schedule the week before the Open Championship at Muirfield.

"I felt like I over-prepared for Augusta," McDowell added. "I was physically not 100 per cent come Thursday, fatigued. Merion, I didn't get my preparation right, either. I was under-golfed going into Merion.

"I missed the cut at Wentworth (for the BMW PGA Championship) and took the next two weeks off, so was competitively not sharp enough going into Merion. The plan was to fly in Monday lunchtime and play 18 holes late afternoon, but I flew into a downpour as the weather conspired against me."

McDowell was among the players who discussed last month how to structure the European Tour schedule in order to attract the sport's biggest names, with the focus being on having groups of big tournaments at strategic points in the year.

But despite being a former Scottish Open winner, the world number nine feels the event needs to move from its current venue of Castle Stuart in Inverness.

"No disrespect to the Scottish Open, I won it in 2008 and I love that event, but it's lost its prestige," he added. "Castle Stuart probably has not been a strong enough golf course the last couple years.

"Let's see them get the Scottish Open on a phenomenal links golf course with a great purse and get a world-class field back there. The week before and after The Open and that key stretch after the FedEx Playoffs, we need to be capitalising a little harder on those areas.

"That's kind of my feelings and a lot of the players' feelings, and I'm not going to sit here and be a hypocrite. I'm playing my minimum (13 events) on the European Tour this year for the first time in my career. Not something I'm particularly proud of. On the PGA Tour, I will play 16, 17 times over there.

"It's tough to compete against USD7million, USD8million purses week-in, week-out. The European Tour is struggling, we know that, and as players we are trying to come up with a strategy to help combat that and really start getting some big, big events back on the schedule."

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