By Brian Keogh
Graeme McDowell is convinced that it is only a matter of time before he ends a victory drought that goes back to the Italian Open in May 2004.
And after finishing fifth behind a rampant Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, the 28-year-old from Portrush will tee it up in the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters at Delhi Golf Club this week with a realistic chance of qualifying for the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona from February 20-24.
Up 23 places to 87th in the latest world rankings and now 16th in the Ryder Cup European Points list, McDowell needs another big finish in Delhi to break into the world's top 64 before next Monday's cut off date for the first World Golf Championship of the season.
Rather than looking that far ahead, the two-time European Tour winner has decided to keep his head down and build on his performance in the desert, where he finished just four strokes behind Woods and only two adrift of Ernie Els.
Clearly frustrated that he hasn’t won a tournament since he took the Italian Open nearly four years ago, he's prepared to live by the golfing maxim and take it one shot at a time as he continues his climb back to the top of the world game.
“I am dying to win a tournament but you can’t let that get in the way of the next shot you are going to hit," McDowell said on Sunday. "Winning tournaments is very difficult. It’s four rounds with great players and the standard is very high. It really is very hard to get it across the line these days.”
Initially disappointed to bogey the 17th hole, where a birdie would have left him needing an eagle at the last to force a play-off, he quickly put things in perspective.
“I’d have snapped your arm off for fifth place in Dubai at the start of the week. If you haven't won, you are always disappointed walking off the last green," he said. "But as the same time you have got to be retrospective.
“This is a quality golf tournament. You only have to look at the leaderboard to see what a quality tournament it is with the best players in the world. To be in the mix with the best players in the world makes me very happy.
"Ernie Els is one of the best players in the world and Tiger has given him a four shot start and taken him out. It is difficult to get across the line.
“All you can do is try and string four rounds together. If you are taking up the silverware, then great but you have to take the positives every week and keep working hard."
Ranked as high as 37th in the world in 2004, McDowell hasn’t paid much attention to the world rankings for the past few years but might start looking at them again soon after Sunday’s boost.
Victory in Delhi would be more than enough to get manager Conor Ridge of Horizon Sports checking the flight schedules for Tucson. But McDowell hasn't had much cause to go running for the rankings on Monday mornings in recent years.
“I tend not to look at those world rankings unless there is something to look at," he said with a grin. "Anyway, I don’t feel like the world ranking reflect how I have improved over the last 12 months.
"I feel that I have played better and that my improvement level is much better than that. But I have got to keep punching away. I have got to be consistent and that’s what I am striving before this year.”
When he left Chubby Chandler's International Sports Management Group to join Dublin based Horizon Sports at the end of last year, McDowell vowed to work hard to get back into European elite.
“It is all about the Ryder Cup team and all about becoming a dominant player in Europe and getting back in the winner’s circle," he said at the time. "It is time to make people in Europe realise that I am one of the top players here in Europe."
McDowell has made a bright start to 2008, despite missing the cut in his first start of the year in Abu Dhabi.
“I hit it great in Abu Dhabi but missed the cut and then in Qatar I was frustrated I wasn’t in the mix more," he explained. "Now I’ve got India this week and it’s a great field with the likes of Ernie playing and I know the course there. It will be nice to get two weeks off after that to recharge the batteries a little.
“But I’m back in Asia again after that for three in a row with the Johnnie Walker in Delhi again, the Malaysian Open and the new event in Korea, the Ballantines
“I am dying to get back into the winner’s circle. But you can’t rush these things. Getting more Ryder Cup points and world ranking points is good for my confidence. It is early in the season but my game feels in great shape. I am very happy with my last three weeks work. "