McDowell comes full circle

By Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell was inspired by Padraig Harrington to battle his way from golfing despair to the verge of Ryder Cup glory.

The Portrush man, 28, ended an agonising four-year wait for his third European Tour win with a heart-stopping play-off victory in the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea.

Doubts crept in at times but he convinced himself that taking leaf out of Open champion Harrington's book and building a loyal support team was the way to go.

Now he's up 35 places to 59th in the world and in pole position to make his Ryder Cup debut in September.

McDowell said: "Harrington’s Open win was huge for Irish golf and I have always looked up to him in a quiet kind of way.

"I admire greatly Padraig's single-mindedness and I like the notion of ‘Team Harrington’ and that’s what I am into.

"I like the idea of having people around you who are obsessed by the goals you want to achieve.

"I feel like I am a Harrington-style player as far as the way I go about things. I like to work hard and do my own thing a little bit.

"I’ve looked at guys like Padraig who has constructed his own personal team.

"You certainly don’t see the guys he works with working with too many other players. Maybe these guys aren’t household names but they work only for him.

"It’s very easy to go with the flow and go with guys who seem to be successful with other players.

"I’ve found that when it comes to working with coaches, management, caddies, trainers and all aspects of this game, you have to work out for yourself.”

Ranked 38th in the world two years ago, McDowell slumped to 132nd at the end of 2006 and bravely launched a massive clear-out in his back up team.

He he left coach Claude Harmon for Clive Tucker and jettisoned caddie Matt Harbour for Ken Comboy before parting company with manager Chubby Chandler at the end of last season.

Reflecting on his amazing journey back to the top McDowell said: "This win has been a long time coming for me and I have to say there has been times when I’ve been frustrated and I was certainly asking myself whether I was good enough to win again.

"You have to keep believing and keep realising you are doing all the right things.

"Your swing is improving and your ball flight is improving and you are getting better, stronger and smarter and you just hope that you are on the right path.

"I feel I have been on the right path for 18 months now but sometimes you need the rewards to show you that all the work is worthwhile."

Team McDowell now includes short game coach Pete Cowen, physio Dr Dale Richardson, trainer Paul Hoskins and mental coach Dr Karl Morris.

And McDowell is convinced that being more like Harrington and resisting the temptation to become a leader instead of a follower has been the key to his success.

He said: "It’s been a great experience. Leaving ISM was not something I wanted to do as far as disruptiveness but it’s been a great transition process.

"Horizon has been like a breath of fresh air for me as far as motivation, getting my of-course life in line and just having a boost of energy coming in from another angle. So I am excited to win more than anything for them."

The mental strength he showed in the play-off will have impressed Ryder Cup skipper Nick Faldo.

And McDowell revealed that he had head coach Morris to thank for convincing him not to try so hard.

He said: "We had a pretty long chat on Wednesday night about how I was feeling. I felt at Malaysia I just got in my own way because I was trying too hard.

“I was hitting the shot and trying to always hit it stiff and then I was trying to also hole every putt.

"I just had to back off from wanting it too much and I had to care a little less about things and that’s what I worked on this week.

"I was caring less about where the ball went and whether or not the puts dropped.

“So I was more accepting of what was going to happen and that was mental shift this week."