From Brian Keogh at Oakmont
Graeme McDowell rolled up his sleeves, got stuck into Oakmont and declared: I’m here to do a job.
Facing just his third US Open test, the Portrush powerhouse declared that he’s not here simply to make up the numbers.
After coming through a gruelling 36-hole qualifier at Walton Heath for the second year on the trot, the Ulsterman has vowed to give it “120 percent.”
Still suffering from jet-lag, McDowell took six hours to play a practice round with Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood.
And while he’s delighted to make the field, he confessed that his ambitions go far beyond simply making the cut.
Beaming after ripping a three-wood into the monster par-three eighth, he said: “I’ve just played a 301 yard par three there. We played it right off the tip and the pin’s at the back.
"Flushed a three wood in there to about 20 feet pin high. It’s great, great. What a test. But I’m here to do a job.
"There’s no point of pre-qualifying, going through all the pain and anguish of 36 hole practice and then 36 holes of qualifying and then coming here and half-assing it.
“I give everything 120 per cent anyway, in every round I play and every tournament I play. From that point of view, mentally I’ve got the head for a US Open.”
McDowell is coming into the event on a high after closing with a 64 to share ninth place in Austria on Sunday.
Now he wants to kill two birds with one stone by contending for a major title and tucking some valuable experience under his best.
Gone are the days when he was frustrated to let winning chances slip away and threw his eyes up to heaven as his father told him he was picking up experience.
Now a mature 27 year old, McDowell believes he is investing his future.
A major champion in waiting, he said: “I’ve always been a sort of live in the moment guy. I’ve always found it frustrating when I’d come off after losing third fourth round of the North or something like that and my dad’d say ‘It’s all experience son, you’ll be all right’.
“I’d answer back, ‘Where do you get off with your experience. I want it now.’ But you realise as you get older you can only learn by actually playing in events like this.
“You’ve got to come here and learn how to get round a course like this, make mistakes a little bit. So I’d think, yeah, you’ve got to gain the experience. Every US Open you play, it makes you a better player.”
Like Padraig Harrington, McDowell reflection on his first practice round at Oakmont and declared that he’d happily settle for an eight over par total for 72 holes.
He said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s not quite what I was expecting because the greens are very severe. Very, very slopey, a lot of undulations in them and it’s going to be a real learning curve.
“I’d take your arm off for four 72s right now. And four rounds of 71 would win it in a canter. I’d take four 72’s just to stay in the clubhouse to be quite hon聥st with you.
“They have a license to make us look very stupid if they want to. There’s places where guys are not going to be able to keep it on the green.
“They are as severe as I’ve ever seen - make Augusta’s look quite ordinary.”
Leading the Open at Hoylake last year and in contention early in last year’s US Open at Winged Foot, McDowell is not ruling himself out of the reckoning just yet.
He added: “There’s nothing I’d love to do more than pick up the trophy. It’s funny, it is so tough out there that it actually levels the playing field.
“It takes the driver of these guys’ hands all the time. It is not about the guy who can just strike it around here. You’ve got to play well, but you have got to chip and putt your butt off as well. It is going to be a real grinding week.
“Whoever wins will have done everything pretty good. Drive the ball well, putt well. He will have the feel of greens, placing ball on them and putting well.”
McDowell also has an ace in the hole in the shape of Oakmont member Tom O’Shane, who is also a member of Lake Nona, where he spends the winter months.
He said: “I’m staying with him this week and he’s passing on a bit of local knowledge. He’s off mid-single figure handicap so he’s a pretty good player.
“You’ve got to love it here. This is the pinnacle of the game, one of the best tournaments in the world. You want to be here. It’s fantastic.”