Graeme McDowell is riding such a tidal wave of confidence right now that not even the prospect of a four-day battle with the Blue Monster seems like a frightening prospect.
Having come through his tussle with the Bear Trap with flying colours and signed off with a course-record equalling 64 to claim a share of sixth place in the Honda Classic on Sunday, the US Open champion tees it up in the $8.5m WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami with high hopes of challenging for his first World Golf Championship title.
Darren Clarke remains the only Irishman to claim one of golf’s WGC crowns, winning the World Match Play title at La Costa in 2000 and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in 2003.
But McDowell, who has started 2011 in sensational style with four consecutive top-10 finishes, has all the shots required to end that drought in Doral on Sunday night.
“WGC’s have got this little niche of prestige,” said the world No 4 after his stunning closing round in West Palm Beach. “Some of them feel a little but strange. The match play is a strange one and it is very difficult to get that special feel.
“Let’s be honest, nothing quite gives you that special feeling the way the major championships do. But the WGC’s are there or thereabouts and of course I’d love to pick up a couple of them in my career.
“Compared to the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, where I just can’t see a way around that golf course, Doral is a track where I know I can put four rounds together.”
McDowell had a relaxed Monday in Florida, where he teed it up in a pro-am at exclusive Seminole, his group sandwiched between those of legends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
But after his heroics at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, he will arrive at Doral today feeling positive about his chances of picking up the $1.4m top prize in an event where he closed with a 66 to share sixth place last year.
“I’m excited about my game going into Doral,” McDowell said. “My ball striking still needs some work but I have got a few days to work on that and get ready for a crack at a WGC title.
“Aesthetically I am not a big fan of Doral. It is not the most beautiful golf course but you have got to drive it well with that bermuda rough. You miss the fairways and you can’t control it going into the greens.
“So I have learned now to play the course the last couple of years. It rewards good ball strikers who put the ball in the fairway, which suits me, but the par threes are really hard.”
McDowell is referring to the 236-yard fourth and the 245-yard 13th, which are among the toughest holes on a track that otherwise lends itself to low scoring.
He said: “The 15th and 17th at Honda are among the toughest you’ll face all year but at Doral the par threes are just long and nasty. You are never going to make doubles but you just miss greens for fun. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
McDowell remained at No 4 in the latest world rankings with Rory McIlroy still No 8 despite his disappointing share of 70th in the Honda Classic, where he struggled to cope with the high winds over the weekend.
All eyes will again be on Tiger Woods in Miami, where a 17th WGC victory would end his 15 month victory drought.
Padraig Harrington, who fell one place to 37th in the world after taking last week off, is also in the 69-man field at Doral. The Dubliner, 39, is searching for some form where he finished tied for third behind winner Ernie Els 12 months ago.