Graeme McDowell has no intention of following the greatest season of his life with a 2011 performance worthy of nobody but Mr Average.
The US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero arrived in Los Angeles yesterday for an end of season date with Tiger Woods at the $5 million (€3.8m) Chevron World Challenge.
And while he’s aware that trumping 2010 will be almost impossible, he’s not prepared to settle for “mediocrity” when he combines the European and US tours next term.
Back at the scene of the runner-up finish that set up an unforgettable year that brought him his first major and two other wins, McDowell said: “I’m certainly looking forward to 2011 but I’ve got to adjust my expectations.
“Anything after this year is going to be a let down unless I win the Masters. So it’s important I readjust my focus and take the positives and confidence out of this year and pour it back into next season.”
McDowell’s decision to play on both sides of the pond next year means he doesn’t have to worry about Ryder Cup qualifying until September.
But he’s determined not to wear himself out by globetrotting constantly and end up playing mediocre golf.
Believing he can become world No 1 some day, he said: “I’m very excited about where my game’s at, where I’m going and how I’m feeling about things, and looking forward to trying to build on this year. It’s going to be a challenge
“It’s just being realistic about where I am in the world’s game. Every week I tee it up, I know I’ve got a chance to win but I think you’ve got to realise you can’t be 120 per cent every week.
“Schedule is very important and, of course, I’ll be looking at some of the world’s top players like the Westwoods and Poulters and guys like that and looking at their schedule and how they’ve managed themselves for the last couple of years.
“I’m under no illusions, playing both tours is difficult. You can get sucked in to trying to chase it on both sides of the water and end-up achieving mediocrity.
“And I’m not a guy who’s going to be happy with mediocrity… I’m 31 years old, feeling healthy and physically very good and I know I can get better. So, of course, I can be world no 1 at some point.”
McDowell has been aware for several years now that he must improve his short game if he is to contend at the highest level. He’s already made great strides in that area but he confessed in Dubai that he is onl halfway there.
“I think tee to green my game is as good as any of the top players,” he said. “Maybe I could do with picking some yardage up off the tee. But apart from that, I’m thinking my iron play is continuing to improve.
It’s probably from 75 yards in, that’s where I need to sharpen up. I’ve been working hard with Pete Cowen for the past few years on that area of my game. As I get better and better and hit more greens, that area of your game becomes hugely important just for the momentum.
“As I stand here, I definitely know from 75 yards in, I’m not a world class player and need to become better from that area. If I’m a five out of ten right now, I need to become an eight or a nine out of 10. There’s so many games within the game.
“I said to Kenny (Comboy) out there my full swing has come so far this year. The work I’ve done with Pete Cowen over the past 18 months, my long game is in the best shape it’s ever been. I’ve strung some weekends together, even today, that probably one of the best ball-striking rounds of the season. I’d put it up there with Celtic Manor on the weekend.
“But no doubt my short game can get better and better. It still continues to be something I don’t believe in as much as I believe in the rest of my game. That needs to get better so that’s the focus of attention for the next four or five months, towards the start of next season.”
Down to 11th in the world this week, McDowell plans to kick off his 2011 schedule in Hawaii in January and head from there for Abu Dhabi before resting until the WGC-Accenture Match Play at the end of February.
He’s joined at Sherwood Country Club by pal Rory McIlroy, who’s ditched his US Tour card to concentrate on Europe and the push for major glory.
Following his US Tour win and third place finishes in the Open and the US PGA, world No 10 McIlroy said: “At the beginning of the year I didn’t feel I was a good enough player to schedule around the majors and the big events, whereas now I feel as if I’m a comfortable top-10 player in the world and I should be building my year around the big events and trying to win those.
“It’s been a good year, but I was expecting more myself just because I was a year older and felt able to do it.
“I have to settle with it and I have to look to next year and try as hard to get more wins.”
Padraig Harrington is in Sun City in South Africa, where he will be hoping to end a “disappointing” campaign with victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge after slumping from fifth to 22nd in the world this season.