By Brian Keogh
Graeme McDowell plans to put a smile on his Mum’s face by plotting his way to US Open glory at Oakmont next week.
The Ulsterman, 27, admits that making his 10th major championship appearance in front of his parents Marian and Kenny makes him proud as punch.
And he’s even more determined to do well since his Mum was diagnosed with a mild form of Multiple Sclerosis nearly three years ago.
While she’s doing well thanks to weekly injections, son Graeme believes that watching him take on the world’s best is an even bigger tonic.
He revealed: "My mum was diagnosed a couple of years ago and it is one of those deteriorating illnesses. But to be honest with you, she is one of the very lucky ones because there is treatment for her.
"It is Mum’s birthday on Sunday and it is nice to be able to tell my folks to jump on a flight on Monday and come out to the US Open and watch me play.
"She watched me grow up as an amateur and it always makes me proud to have my mum and dad on the sidelines watching me play against the best players in the world. That is always nice."
The close-knit Portrush family will head for Pittsburgh on Monday for the season’s second major.
And after battling is way through sectional qualifying at Walton Heath for the second year in a row on Monday, McDowell wants to make their trip worth the hassle with a top drawer performance.
While he’s made the cut in his first two US Open starts, McDowell does not believe his results reflect the overall quality of his play.
At Pinehurst in 2005 he finished 80th after a final round 81 while at Winged Foot last year he had to settle for 48th after a closing 79.
This time round he’s determined to produce the goods on all four days and he hopes that his lack of course knowledge might actually be more of a help than a hindrance.
This year’s test is rated the toughest in America and the early indications from the players are that Oakmont with be a brutal test.
Not only are there 210 bunkers - including the yawning Big Mouth at the 17th - Oakmont also boasts the longest par-three in major championship history in the 288-yard eighth.
The par-five 12th has been turned into a 667-yard monster - another record for a US Open - whole the par of the course has been reduced from 71 to 70 with the ninth turned from a par five to a 477-yard par four.
Not only that, the greens are famed as the fastest and most difficult in America.
NBC commentator Johnny Miller, who blitzed Oakmont with a 63 to win in 1973, warned: "You're going to get putts that will make guys look like dumbbells."
Shaun Micheel, the 2003 US PGA champion added: "Another player told me that you'll probably putt at least one if not two balls off the green each day. Man, that's already put me in a bad way."
No wonder then that McDowell is almost glad that he won’t have seen too much of the trouble when he plays the first of just two practice rounds on Tuesday
Explaining his less is more theory, McDowell said: "Obviously it is going to be a very, very difficult golf course and playing it five or six times can very often talk yourself into not being able to play it.
"You find ways of showing yourself how not to get round the place and my plan to just to go Tuesday and Wednesday, have a look round and just go with it.
"It might not be the a bad plan. If you concentrate on plotting your way round correctly, that might be the best way of breaking a golf course down."
McDowell is a 200-1 long shot to lift his first major title after a rollercoaster season featuring three top tens and three missed cuts.
But he believes that the US Open is the major that best suits his game right now.
He said: "I have made the cut both times in the US Open at Pinehurst and Winged Foot. And I don’t believe my game is badly suited to US Open set ups. I believe that if I have got a major I have a chance of doing well in, it is that one.
"Some guys didn’t try to qualify but I put a little bit of effort in because it is a major championship and you want to be there. You don’t want to be watching them on TV.
"I am excited to go and every time you get a chance it is a bit of experience and also a chance to develop your game.
"The US Open requires a certain amount of mental toughness, scrambling and going for pars."
McDowell does not believe that his first two US Open appearances give true reflection of how well he played and he plans to put that right this year.
He added: "Barring a bad round at Winged Foot last year I have a great tournament.
"In fact, the last two years I have a couple of high rounds at the ned. Last year especially you could put down to a little bit of mental tiredness.
"Apart form the last two weeks, missing those two cuts, my consistency level has been quite good. I went off the boil a little with what I was doing in my swing but I have refocussed and I feel as though I am playing as well as I have all year.
"The Irish Open took a little out of me mentally and physically and I struggled with my swing at Wentworth the following week, no doubt. I cam to Wales and played very badly on Thursday and very well on Friday.
"It has been a season of ups and downs and you take the rough with the smooth. I am quite excited about the next few weeks and with the US Open, it doesn’t get much better than that."