Graeme McDowell is on such a massive high that he’s already set his sights on chasing down Lee Westwood for the world No 1 spot.

The Ulsterman, 31, continued his dream year when he grabbed his third victory of the season in the Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Sunday.

The Ryder Cup hero is now just €528,581 adrift of Martin Kaymer with four events remaining in the race to be crowned European No 1 in Dubai later this month.

But after moving into the world’s top 10 for the first time, the reigning US Open champion sees no reason why he shouldn’t try to topple Westwood and become Ireland’s first world No 1.

Up three spots to 10th in the world, McDowell said: “World No 1? I am starting to move into the upper echelons of the world rankings now and I am starting to believe in myself.

“Lee Westwood is No 1 in the world rankings and that’s just special for European Tour golf. When I see a guy like that do it, he’s probably been the best player in the world over the last two years.

“Taking injury out of the equation, he is the man and it is great for European golf.

“It’s been a breakout season for the European Tour and it is great to see Lee go No 1 and of course I will be trying to chase him down.”

McDowell’s first task is to continue his incredible year by following in the footsteps in Ronan Rafferty and Padraig Harrington by becoming just the third Irishman to win the European money title.

Kaymer still has a massive lead at the top but there is €16.5 million up for grabs over the next month with the winner of this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai set to take home €860,153.

McDowell admits that he finds it hard to believe all he has achieved already this year following wins in the Wales Open, the US Open and that match-winning Ryder Cup performance.

His win at Valderrama made him the first Irish player to win three European Tour events in a season since Rafferty became European No 1 in 1989 - and he still has four more chances to win again.

Pinching himself, McDowell said: “I’d have certainly bitten your arm off if you had offered me a year like this. It’s been a special season. I couldn’t have imagined it going the way it has.

“I came into this run of five weeks with good ambitions; really trying to put a shine on a great season. I didn’t want to rest on my laurels and just cruise to Dubai. I really want to, if not win tournaments, certainly finish strong anyway.

“I couldn’t imagine that my run of five weeks would get off to this good a start. I am very excited to have punched a bit of a hole in Martin’s lead and I go to Shanghai with some mojo, trying to give him a run for his money maybe. 

“There is a lot of stuff to play for. Shanghai is a great week, then Singapore and Hong Kong followed by the Dubai World Championship. There is a big pot to play for, a lot of money to play for and a lot of great events to try and win.”

World Rankings
1 Lee Westwood (Eng) 8.29pts
2 Tiger Woods (USA) 8.13
3 Martin Kaymer (Ger) 7.98
4 Phil Mickelson (USA) 7.83
5 Steve Stricker (USA) 7.20
6 Jim Furyk (USA) 7.09,
7 Paul Casey (Eng) 6.14
8 Luke Donald (Eng) 5.70
9 Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 5.44
10 Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 5.43
11 Matt Kuchar (USA) 5.33
12 Ernie Els (Rsa) 5.13
13 Dustin Johnson (USA) 4.99
14 Ian Poulter (Eng) 4.49
15 Hunter Mahan (USA) 4.48,
16 Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 4.48
17 Retief Goosen (Rsa) 4.25
18 Zach Johnson (USA) 4.06
19 Padraig Harrington (Irl) 4.00
20 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 3.91