Graeme McDowell believes he’s served his apprenticeship and is finally ready to contend for Major glory.
The 30-year old Ulsterman just one top-10 finish to show from his previous 17 major starts but that came in last August’s US PGA and after topping the European challenge at Augusta last year he’s convinced that he has the game and the patience to get in the mix on the back nine on Sunday.
Tied for 17th at the Masters last term, McDowell knows that he must roll with Augusta’s punches for the first three days before throwing a few haymakers in the final round.
“Last year was a big breakthrough year for me. I came here and I really got my head around the golf course,” he said before heading out for his final practice round with Rory McIlroy.
“When I first came here in 2005 (and missed the cut), I was an inexperienced major player. I was like a deer in the headlights for the week and I walked away with a sour taste in my mouth.
“But last year was a big breakthrough year. I really learned the golf course and understood it. It is important to hit it in the correct places because there are places where you shouldn’t go.
“Once you get your head around that you have to get your head around these greens - they are tough to putt, very subtle, there’s a definite Rae’s Creek effect going on. You really have to start to understand them.
“I came up last Friday and played 36 holes, and I feel great because my memories from last year were stlll there. I had great notes and I was ready to go.”
McDowell has held the lead in majors several times early in the week but never managed to keep it going and give himself a chance on Sunday afternoon. This could be the week he finally breaks that hoodoo.
He said: “I’ve put myself in nice, solid positions but I’ve never had a chance to win. That’s what I’m driving for. I am driving for a late Sunday afternoon start somewhere. Whether it is this week or at Pebble, who knows. But a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday is what we are all dreaming of.
“I have slowly but surely got the game to do it and I believe that myself. I have got to go out and believe that. I have gotten off to fast starts in majors in the past and faltered come the weekend. It is important to slowly build, conserve energy and make sure you have something left in the tank as the golf course gets tougher and tougher over the weekend.
“I try not to pile myself with expectations. But I know if I play well and manage my game well, I can compete this weekend.
“I’m not going to go out and set myself targets. I am going to slowly go about my business and see where that leaves me on Sunday.
“Competing is being within three, four or five shots of the lead come Sunday afternoon and that’s where I want to be.”