A relaxed Graeme McDowell prepares for Ryder Cup lift off. In the background, Darren Clarke chats with Rory McIlroy’s parents. Pic by Rory McIlroy (?)Graeme McDowell can’t wait to experience the crushing pressure of the Ryder Cup following his US Open win.

Ireland’s latest major winner - tipped to hit the first shot for Europe in the opening fourball alongside pal Rory McIlroy on Friday - believes the three-day event is as pressurised as Sunday afternoon at a major right from the start.

Looking forward to the challenge, McDowell said: “Obviously, playing in front of the home fans this time round, it’s going to be a lot more intense. It’s going to be great.

“The big thing about the Ryder Cup is that it’s like having Sunday afternoon pressure at a Major right from the gun off on Friday morning.

“Generally if you’re in contention on Sunday at a Major Championship, you’re there because you are playing well.

“I guess the thing with the Ryder Cup is that on Friday morning you’ve nothing to base that one, you’re putting your tee in the ground for the first time that week and it’s Sunday afternoon at a Major Championship pressure right away.

“I think that’s one of the unique things about the Ryder Cup and I guess I take a lot more confidence in there with me this time round than I did at Valhalla.”

McDowell was one of four rookies on Nick Faldo’s team in Kentucky two years ago.

But the world No 13 played like a veteran, earning two and a half points and losing just one of his four games.

His win in June’s Wales Open at Celtic Manor set him up for major glory in the US Open at Pebble Beach just two weeks later.

And that’s why he’s brimming with confidence and excitement ahead of this week’s clash with Corey Pavin’s US side.

Licking his lips, McDowell said: “I’m definitely very much looking forward to this one, not that I wasn’t excited about Valhalla.

“I probably was a little more anxious about what to expect when I got there. But this time we’re going to a familiar venue and obviously I won there in June.

“As US Open champion and one of three Major Champions on the team, I think I’m feeling a lot more comfortable about what to expect.

“I’m hoping to play at least three or four games, hopefully five if I’m feeling fit and playing well. There’s no doubt I definitely feel much more an integral part of the team this time round than I did two years ago.”