Chilled out McDowell ready for jungle warfare

Chilled out McDowell ready for jungle warfare

Arrow straight Graeme McDowell reckons he can become king of the jungle at Turnberry.

The Portrush powerhouse, 29, believes his laser-like accuracy off the tee will be a massive advantage on a course that has so much rough it looks more like the Amazon than western Scotland.

Not only that, the Ryder Cup star is convinced that Europe’s top guns have the firepower to show the Americans that they are the biggest force in world golf - 32 years after top Yanks Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus produced the greatest Open finish of all time on the Turnberry links.

Sounding more like David Attenborough than David Duval, he warned: “It's the amazon jungle out there. It is just links rough on steroids. It is just nuts.

“It is crazy and not just the wispy stuff on top, it’s the green, lush stuff on the bottom. So not only have you got to scythe through the tough stuff on top, it’s hard just to find the ball.

“We are going to be relying heavily on the ball spotters this week.”

In total contrast to last year’s Open at Birkdale, McDowell has opted for a chilled out approach this week.

Twelve months ago, he arrived at Birkdale by Porsche, screaming out the window with elation after grabbing the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond to secure his Ryder Cup place.

He was still on a high when he shared the first round lead with Rocco Mediate and Robert Allenby but was so exhausted by the weekend that he crashed to an 80 in the third round and had to settle for a share of 19th place behind Padraig Harrington.

This year his form has been slow to come and after finishing 41st at Loch Lomond on Sunday morning, he got in some early practice at Turnberry and headed back to Portrush on the ferry last night.

Set to return to the Open venue by helicopter tomorrow (Wed), he plans to practice at Royal Portrush in peace quiet today so that he can conserve his energy.

And he’ll be working hard on his long irons and fairway woods to make sure he's ready for a test that is sure to be survival of the straightest this week.

Ranked 19th for driving accuracy on tour this year, McDowell said: “The key is accuracy off the tee and that suits me well. And it is not a long golf course, so if you do hit the fairway, you have got a few medium and a few short irons in your hand and you can make birdies."

He played an early morning practice round with Rory McIlroy yesterday, explaining: “If you get a 10 mph wind like we had this morning, you can really score here. But if you get 20 mph, it's a different kettle of fish.

“I wouldn't change last year's build up for the world, winning at Loch Lomond and then coming to the Open. But did that affect me a little bit? Did I run out of steam on the weekend a wee bit? Perhaps.

“I am coming in this week a bit more under the radar, a bit more chilled out and while I haven't been hitting the ball the way I'd like to, I have certainly turned the corner and I am seeing the ball doing what I want it to do again.”

McDowell is one of the smartest golfers on the European Tour and he’s delighted that the bombers will not have a field day on a course where the rough will severely punish the wayward.

Just like his home course at Portrush, players will be forced to use strategy to avoid the pot bunkers and deep grass.

He wouldn’t be surprised to see Tiger Woods use irons and fairway woods off the tee in a repeat of the 2006 Open at Hoylake, where McDowell led after the first round.

But this is even tougher than the Liverpool venue with the focus on intelligent, strategic play off the tee.

Relishing the mental examination ahead, he said: “There are only a few holes where you can bash it past the bunkers or hit it short of them. The course dictates where you have to hit it to and we will all be hitting from the same place.

“I think most people will be answering the same questions as opposed to guys being able to take it over corners, flying it over the lot. I much prefer it that way.

“I think the guys who choose their strategy the best as far as how they are going to get it to Point A rather than the bludgeoners who can take all the danger out of play.”

As for American domination of the Open - 10 wins from the last 14 stagings - McDowell believes it’s time for the Europeans to follow in Harrington's footsteps and shine again this week.

He said: “I think we have the guns to compete with the Americans now and I think the European boys can and will compete this week. No one is going to overpower this place."