McDowell has the steel to snag his green jacket

Graeme McDowell. Photo Eoin Clarke/golffile.ieGraeme McDowell is a happy hooker again and convinced he finally has the game to snag a green jacket.

The Ulsterman “lost” his natural ability to hit the ball right to left during his incredible 2010 season as he concentrated on hitting a reliable cut.

But the US Open champion’s recent swing struggles have come with a silver lining - his “five yard” hook is back and he’s got his eye on major No 2.

Relieved he can ditch his plan to use two drivers, he said: “Something I haven’t been happy with the last few weeks is how much shape I have had on the ball. But I am happy that the right to left shape is in there. It is not something I have done on purpose, it is just a couple of bad habits coming back in.

“You really have to draw the ball at Augusta and I was a little bit worried about tee shots like the second, the 10th and the 13th and thought about having two drivers in the bag - a normal one and one made specially to draw the ball.

“But having seen those holes in practice on Tuesday, I have the confidence that I will be hitting a little bit of a draw off those tees.”

McDowell has made just one cut in three previous visits to Augusta but reckons he now has the short game to pass the ultimate test.

He’s also a far more confident player thanks to his major breakthrough and Ryder Cup heroics last year.

Believing he can contend, he said: “I was like a deer in the headlights when I first played in 2005. I played with Ben Crenshaw and I was totally lost on the greens.

“But I was 17th when I got back there two years ago and when I missed the cut last year it was because I just didn’t have the confidence around the greens.

“But I’ve been working hard on my short game this year and with the confidence I got from last season and a bit of belief in myself, I know have the peace of mind and the ability to do the job if I can put myself in position come the weekend.

“I almost feel like a rookie again but I know if I play my best, I’ll have a chance. There is certainly a good difference between the 2005 guy who was going to Augusta with the deer in the headlights attitude.

“I am a guy with a better short game than last year and my short game has really improved. I don’t think you can win at Augusta without a short game and my long game has always been thereabouts.

“Every round you play you learn something different because there really are some local knowledge shots out there. I feel like a guy who can go there and contend.

“Your short game gets tested to the nth degree in the majors and especially at Augusta. It doesn’t matter how well you hit it or how well you understand where not to hit the golf ball.  You are going to get in trouble now and again and you have got to have a short game to get yourself out of trouble.

“You are going to have high tariff chip shots and pitch shots around the greens and you have got to have all the shots.  

Daring to dream, McDowell added: “It’s just an amazing course. It’s an amazing tournament. I love everything about it - it is a special, special place. Definitely I would love to feel that green jacket on my back at some point.”

It’s not all rosey in the garden, however, as McDowell admitted during the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami.

“I don’t really possess the towering five iron which is a good shot - a good shot round anywhere. There are a few shots, going into that fourth hole, the par three. I put a three hybrid into the bag last year and it was a really good shot for me.

“So that three hybrid has been a big change in my bag the last couple of years which has really helped me hit that 220 shot that comes in quite soft which is good for 13, good for 15 and obviously good for four.

“But generally, it is obviously short game and putting and getting my head around those few key tee shots. The rest is patience and trying to stay the correct side of the pin.

“I think there are only two or three speciality type shots you need around that place as far as drives and irons go. The rest of it is all reasonably straightforward stuff.”

Put that way, seeing McDowell in a green jacket is far from an impossible dream. Happy hooking.