From Brian Keogh in Miami

Graeme McDowell has sent out a “Houston, we have a problem” SOS as he searches for his Masters form.

While Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy feel they are bang on track with their Augusta build up, McDowell is desperate to land an invitation to the Shell Houston Open so he can knock his game into shape.

The Ulsterman has played just 13 competitive rounds this year and now realises he needs to rack up the mileage to get sharp.

After finishing 66th out of 79 finishers in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral, he confessed: "I am under-golfed and it shows. I am lacking a bit of confidence because I haven’t played enough.

“I have never come into the season having played as little as I have. So I am starting to realise that I am a guy who needs to play more.

“I am making a last ditch effort to get into Houston but I am not sure if that is going to be possible this late in the day.

“If we don’t get the nod I have two rounds in the Tavistock Cup this week and then, hopefully, four more at Bay Hill next week.

"I don’t think that’s going to be enough golf to get ready for Augusta and it is not ideal.

“I thought it might be enough but the game hasn’t come as easy to me this season as I thought it might."

McDowell began the season with a share of 24th place in the Dubai Desert Classic before taking two weeks off.

He then threw away a possible top-ten in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera with a sloppy finish before crashing out to the eight birdies by Zach Johnson in the first round of the Accenture Match Play in Tucson. 

He explained: "My game felt good in Dubai and I hit it really good on the weekend in LA but kind of threw it away in the Match Play by getting dumped out in the first round and walked away feeling a little down on myself."

Asked what he might have done differently, McDowell said: "I might have played one more in the Middle East and maybe last week at the Honda. I thought I would play a few tournaments less this year to see how it would suit me and I am going to have to rethink.

"It is getting going that is the tough part. I got into a great rhythm last year and played some great stuff so I am looking forward to the season and I am looking forward to getting back to Bay Hill, where there is a premium on hitting the ball well and accurately."

But while McDowell is mildly worried, Harrington and McIlroy feel they are on course to play well at Augusta after sharing 20th place in the CA Championship at Doral.

Harrington will return to action in next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill before he is joined in Houston by McIlroy for the countdown to the Masters.

After knocking the rust off his game at Doral, Harrington said: "It gives me a good idea of what I need to work on going forward. It hasn't been ideal up to now but I am comfortable with my game and, as always the optimist, I do feel things are going in the right direction."

Looking forward to a tough test at Arnie's track where he missed the cut on his last appearance there in 2000, Harrington added: "I find the course tough actually and I haven't been back in a number of years.

“I look forward to seeing if I can master the challenge this time round. I certainly wasn't up to it the last time I was there."

McIlroy has had a sensational three week spell in the US - T5 at the Match Play and T13 in the Honda Classic -but ran out of steam at Doral over the weekend and hopes to come out with all guns blazing in Houston before heading to Augusta.

McIlroy said: "I am looking forward to getting home for a couple of weeks and I'll be raring to go and get back out here and play some more.

"It has been great and I feel that if I can do a little bit of work at home I'll get myself ready for the next stretch.

"I can't wait for Augusta.  It is going to be my second event back when I do get back out here. It is right around the corner and the closer it gets, the more excited I'll be.

"It'll be a great week for me and hopefully one that I will do well at."