From Brian Keogh at Royal Birkdale

Gutted Graeme McDowell reckons his short game must improve if he is to become a future Open winner.

The Portrush native, 28, was just three shots off the pace at halfway but crashed to a nightmare 80 in Saturday’s wind storms to see his Claret Jug hopes blown away.

In the end he finished inside the top 30 on 14-over par after a final round 72, but he knows that must improve around the greens to move into the Major league.

Preparing now for his Ryder Cup debut and the fight for the Order of Merit title, McDowell reflected on his Saturday blowout, explaining: “My speed putting wasn’t very good the last couple of days.

"Obviously, if it’s this windy, you are going to miss greens, so you have to scramble well and I didn’t scramble at all well the last two days and that’s what I put yesterday down to especially.

“I’ve learned this week that my short game will have to improve. We worked so hard and obviously were so obsessed by the long game in the wind out there the last couple of days, my short game wasn’t that sharp.

“I probably threw away six or seven shots around the greens and it made the difference between making up the numbers today as opposed to maybe having a chance to contend in some shape or form.

“I think I was more disappointed that the conditions took me out of play yesterday. If it had been a super day like today, maybe I’d have had a little bit of a chance because I’m playing well enough and hitting the shots.

“I knew I had it in the tank a little bit this weekend and I probably threw it all away yesterday. To do it on the greens is even more frustrating.

“You wouldn’t mind if you hit it in the rough with a couple of slashes, maybe drive it bad and shoot a number but I hit it well enough yesterday to do the business and threw it away with my pace putting.”

McDowell was blown away on Saturday, when he carded one birdie, three double bogeys and five bogeys in a nightmare round.

But he finished his fifth Open Championship in style after carving his tee shot close to the fence to the right of the 18th.

Pulling out a seven-iron, he blasted a 183-yard special onto the green and two-putted for an unlikely par.

His goal now is to get his short game in shape for his Ryder Cup debut and his bid for the Order of Merit title after what has been a spectacular year so far.

In March he won the Ballantine’s Championship and then picked up his fourth career title in the Scottish Open eights days ago to lock up his Ryder Cup place.

Ranked 29th in the world and second in the Order of Merit starting the week, McDowell spoke with Ryder Cup skipper Nick Faldo at Birkdale and can’t wait to play the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, the US PGA and the Ryder Cup.

He turns 29 on the eve of the WGC event in Akron but plans to have a party with his pals next weekend before he head for the US

He said: “’m really looking forward to the next few weeks. I’m going to take three or four days and just relax, chill out and maybe have a little bit of reflection. I’ve got a couple of social games set up.

“My birthday is coming next week in Akron, so I’ve a little bit of a pre-birthday bash at the weekend with family and friends. Apart from that, I’m on a flight next Sunday so I’ll be looking forward to two or three days rest anyway.

“I’ll take two weeks off after the PGA but the next few days will give me a chance to get a rest before getting the old game head back on again at the weekend.”

As for the Ryder Cup, McDowell said: “I’d a brief chat with Nick Faldo during the week. Obviously just in passing. He kind of hinted at the fact I might be locked-up for the team, subject to what’s going to happen over the next couple of months.

“He said he’d been kind of looking at me play over the last few week. The prospects of playing at Valhalla in September obviously are pretty exciting.

“It’s obviously a great weight of my mind and gives me a chance to just go and play my own game. I can focus on all the good things, like my world ranking points and playing against the best players in the world, just continuing in the Order of Merit and chasing that.

“I’ve shown in the last three or four weeks that I’m good enough. Yesterday kind of brought me back down to earth but I know I’ve got the game now. A little bit of relaxation in the next few days and I’ll be good to go.”

Harrington won the Order of Merit in 2006 and McDowell believes he still has a chance of following in the Dubliner’s footsteps.

He said: “The Order of Merit has to be a target. You don’t get many chances to win the Order of Merit unless you are Colin Montgomerie. I think I really have the chance to chase it. It’s a title I’d love to win.

“I’m in the mix now. I’ve now got to fix my schedule for the end of the season and re-set my goals a little bit and finishing as high up as I can certainly is one of those goals.”