Short game a Major weakness for McDowell

Graeme McDowell believes can emulate Padraig Harrington and become a Major championship winner.

But the Ulsterman confessed that he will have to bring his short game up the level of the triple major winning Dubliner if he is to make the breakthrough next year.

Set to round off a stellar season alongside Ryder Cup partner Ian Poulter in the Merrill Lynch Shootout in Florida today, McDowell said: “I look at Padraig and what he has done over the last two years and I can see just where my short game has to get to but the good news is that I really can see that it could become good enough to win a Major.

“I know my game around the greens has a way to go - and I am working really hard on it with Pete Cowen - but equally it fills me with confidence to feel that there is light is at the end of the tunnel and I am improving towards a Major Championship.”

McDowell had his best ever season in 2008, winning the Ballantine’s Championship and the Barclays Scottish Open to secure his first Ryder Cup cap at Valhalla.

He played brilliantly there though Europe went down to an inspired American side and he hopes to continue his progression in the world rankings and the Majors in 2009.

Now ranked 33rd in the world, McDowell was encouraged that he finished inside the top 20 in the Open and the US PGA despite not playing his best golf.

He said: “One of the best things of all as I look back at 2008 and think about the start of the new year is that I know that I can still improve.

“It may have been my best season to date but it’s such a good feeling that I can assess my play, pinpoint my weaknesses and realise that I can keep improving.

“I had a bad day at Birkdale on the Saturday and I never really got anything going at the US PGA yet I finished in the top-20 for both. For me that says a hell of a lot about how far I have come with my game.

“It shows me I can perform on the Major stage, against the best players in the world and that I know how to get round these difficult courses even when my game isn’t absolutely on song.

“That kind of result lets me know that I have got the kind of game and the mental quality required to win a Major Championships one day.”

McDowell’s seven-iron to within a foot of the flag in a playoff for the Ballantine’s Championship was second only to Padraig Harrington’s 17th hole five-wood in the Open in the European Shot of the Year vote.

He said: “It was my shot of the year. To be able to produce that when I really needed it was incredibly satisfying.

“Of course the Scottish Open was my biggest win of my career so far and it pretty much sealed my place at Valhalla.

“When I look back at my Ryder Cup debut it is of course clouded by the feeling of defeat but when I consider how I performed under the ultimate pressure I can’t help but take real confidence.

“To strike the ball and especially to putt well on such a stage gives me a huge amount going forward.”

McDowell and Poulter teamed up to beat Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk in the Saturday afternoon fourballs at the Ryder Cup and hope to catch fire again in Shark Shootout at Tiburon Golf Club in Florida.

The field features 12 of the world’s top 70 inluding world No 8 Camilo Villegas, US Ryder Cup stars Stewart Cink, J.B. Holmes, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker and Boo Weekley and outgoing skipper Paul Azinger.