I need a slap, says McDowell

By Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell admits that he needs a good slap to continue his move forward in the world rankings.

The Portrush powerhouse, 27, insisted he was looking on the bright side after finishing second to Markus Brier place in the Volvo China Open.

And he confessed the while 'frustration' perfectly describes his recent form, his best finish for two years has forced him to banish that word from his vocabulary.

McDowell said: "Frustration is a word that I have got to take out of my vocabulary. It is not about being frustrated. You have got to give it your best shot and really learn from your mistakes.

"You have to give yourself credit where credit is due and keep improving. I feel that is what I am doing well at the minute and if I say frustration again you can slap me."

While he finished five shots behind Austrian Brier after a closing 69, McDowell has finally discovered some consistency after a roller-coaster start to the year.

Coming off a nightmare 2006 campaign that saw him lose his PGA Tour card, fail to challenge for Ryder Cup honours and crash out of the world's top 100, the former Walker Cup star went back to basics.

He pledged his allegiance to the European Tour for the next two years and called in coach Clive Tucker to revamp his highly individual swing.

But it took until last week's event in China for the Irish ace to put four rounds together and see some light at the end of the tunnel.

A fourth place finish in the Qatar Masters in January gave him hope that he was about to start his climb back to the top.

But while he led after the first round in Dubai the following week, he finished tied 44th there and then missed the cut in Malaysia.

Further disappointing finishes in Mexico and Thailand left McDowell with the word 'frustration' on his lips again.

But he took five weeks off, recharged his batteries at his Florida base and rediscovered some form as a member of the Lake Nona side that beat a Tiger Woods' led Isleworth in the annual Tavistock Cup three weeks ago.

Now he's looking on the bright side again after becoming the only player to hit sub par rounds ever day at Silport Golf Club in the Volvo China Open.

He said: "I've had a five week break and obviously to come back and play as solid as I have makes me very, very pleased.

"Of course I would have liked to have pressured the leader a little more than I have but I played very solid all week.

"My game improved progressively and I drove it better with every round. My putter went a little cold on me but that was probably due to not quite hitting the ball close enough.

"Finishing second is no disappointment at all. It was nice to be in the mix. It is always nice to break par every day and we had four very different days.

"The wind switched every day and Thursday was very tough. I am just very pleased with the consistent level I play I produced and I am taking some great form with me into the next few weeks."

This week's BMW Asian Open in Shanghai will pose an even great challenge for McDowell with Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Paul Casey and Colin Montgomerie leading the co-sanctioned field.

But McDowell is determined not to take his foot off the gas and admits that he will not be happy until he has regained his place in the world's top 50.

He said: "I am taking some really good form into the BMW. It is a similar type golf course and I am really looking forward to it now.

"Everything I have been doing over the last couple of months – apart from some chilling out in Orlando and deep sea fishing off West Palm Beach – has been geared to ensuring I do not have as frustrating a season as last year.

"I need to get things moving again up the world rankings because being outside the top 100 is not my idea of progress. In fact, I won’t be happy until I’m well established inside the top 50."

McDowell is unlikely to move into the top 100 when the latest world rankings are published today (Tuesday) following a Monday finish to the Verizon Heritage Tournament due to high winds.

But he won't be the only Irishman hoping for a big performance at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club this week.

Kilkenny's Gary Murphy let a good finish slip away on Sunday with a closing 74 and is 169th in the Order of Merit with just €28,262 from nine starts.

He is joined in Shanghai by Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane while Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke are recharging their batteries.

McGinley and Clarke are set to resume in the Spanish Open in Madrid next week.

But Harrington is taking another two weeks off after the Masters and will play four in a row, starting at the Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina from May 3-6.

The Dubliner will get a chance to check out his new US base at nearby White Oak Plantation before playing the Players Championship at Sawgrass, the Irish Open at Adare Manor and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

McDowell's roller-coaster career

May 2002 Wins Scandinavian Masters - World No 215
April 2004 Wins Italian Open - up 95 places to World No 145.
November 2004 Runner up in Dunhill Links - World No 63.
March 2005 Runner up in Bay Hill Invitational - Breaks into top 50 at No 38 to earn Masters place.
December 2005 Drops to world No 58
July 2006 Leads The Open after 1st rd but finishes 61st and drops to world No 103
December 2006 Finishes season ranked 132nd in world
April 2007 Joint second in Volvo China Open - best finish for two years.

European Tour Order of Merit
1 Henrik Stenson SWE €1,615,383
2 Retief Goosen RSA €1,192,503
3 Paul Casey ENG €860,767
4 Y E Yang KOR €747,104
5 Ernie Els RSA €662,707
6 Nick O'Hern AUS €621,886
7 Trevor Immelman RSA €607,513
8 Justin Rose ENG €574,263
9 Padraig Harrington IRL €476,909
10 Anton Haig RSA €428,333

(Other Irish)
36 Graeme McDowell €207,867
79 Damien McGrane €88,339
89 Peter Lawrie €75,462
108 Darren Clarke €64,092
116 Paul McGinley €57,979
169 Gary Murphy €28,262