Padraig Harrington has a major rival in Graeme McDowell for golf’s top prizes.

That’s the view of Ernie Els’ caddie Ricci Roberts, who carried the bag for the young Ulsterman for three events until Valderrama.

Harrington rates the Order of Merit crown just below the majors and believes the next step is to capture on of the four big titles.

But South African Roberts, who helped Els to two US Open wins and victory in the Open at Muirfield, sees McDowell as a player who can make the grade in the Grand Slam events.

Roberts said: “Graeme looks to me as though he is a serious confidence player. When his confidence is up it looks as though he could really shoot some low numbers.

“It’s his confidence that is lacking at the moment and it’s just that he has been struggling playing both tours.

“In ’94 when Ernie won his first major, he was 24 and basically went straight into his own aeroplane. When you are travelling in your own plane it is a lot easier trying to play both tours than flying commercially.

“But I have been with Ernie on and off for 15 years but I know you have to work at it to get to the level he’s got himself. It just doesn’t happen overnight but Graeme has serious potential.

“There’s no reason why I can’t seen him winning a British Open or a US Open, definitely. He’s got a great temperament and it looks at though he has a fantastic putting stroke but that has just let him down this week but I have enjoyed the time caddying for him.

“He’s got a brain on his shoulders. He’s amateur record also speaks volumes for his potential. I didn’t know until someone mentioned it the other day that he won six or seven times in the one year and broke Tiger’s scoring record. That’s pretty impressive. I didn’t know that.”

McDowell was disappointed to finish 32nd at Valderrama and plans to re-group now by taking a break after a season to forget.

The Portrush ace, 27, lost his US Tour card, failed to win an event and missed out on qualification for Europe’s Ryder Cup side.

As a result he plans to dedicate himself to the European Tour for the next two years and get ready to win majors.

Almost certain to skip the Hong Kong Open in two weeks, 13 stone McDowell also plans to work on his fitness and get himself back to his fighting weight of 11 and a half stones.

He said: “I feel technically my swing is getting better but mentally I don’t think I am really up for it.

“I am not really into my golf and that was the case on Friday. I don’t really know what I was doing out there.

“I am just not getting any positive vibes going and there has been so much negativity this year that when I do get myself into a positive scenario I just don’t feel very positive.

“I have stopped feeling like myself on the golf course and that’s has got to be fatigue and the product of everything that has gone on this year.

“I have been doing a lot of soul-searching of late, big time. I feel as though I just want to close the door on this year and start afresh next year.

“I will take away what I have learned this year and I know what I need to work on. I feel as though my swing is going in the right direction.

“I will do a lot of running and try and loose some weight and come back a different man. I have worked pretty hard on my fitness this year till about September and then got very tired of it all and I haven’t done much at all this last few months.”