McDowell ready to run with big dogs again

Graeme McDowell believes he’s got the star power to handle anything Congressional can throw at him during his US Open defence.

G-Mac squeezed an entire career’s worth of experience into 2010 - winning a major and the Ryder Cup and staring down former world No 1 Tiger Woods down the stretch in his own back yard.

Now he goes to the beast that is the Congressional believing he’s a big game hunter with absolutely nothing to fear.

Despite some recent slip ups, McDowell reflected on his rookie year as a superstar and said: “I feel like I’ve probably experienced nearly everything there is to experience in the game now, so everything beyond here will feel reasonably normal.

“I guess this last 12 months has been probably the last feather in my cap, if you like, as far as getting ready to be the best player I can be, accepting everything that goes with winning the best tournaments in the world and being one of the best players in the world.

“I’ve learned that I can handle it. Yes, there have been some up and downs and there’s been some mistakes made, but generally I feel like I’m ready to accept it and I feel like I can do it.”

The same can’t be said for McDowell’s talented pal Rory McIlroy, who goes to Congressional as the leading Irishman in the world rankings.

The Holywood star, 22, is hoping there’s no repeat of his Masters meltdown where he led by four going into the final round but crashed to a nightmare 80..

Admitting he has no idea if he will handle the pressure coming down the stretch, McIlroy said: “I think I need to get myself into that position again know how I’ve got over it and if I’ll handle it better.

“I think I’ve put a few things in place that will make me handle being in that position better again. But you never really know until you’re tested in that environment.”

World No 8 McDowell knows that Congressional is right up McIlroy’s alley as it’s a long, punishing course that rewards players who hit the ball high.

And he’s under no illusions about the massive tasks he faces having found the Washington DC track to be a real beast when he played it in cool, damp conditions a few weeks ago.

It was so tough, he sent his followers a Twitter message after just a few holes, complaining: “Nobody will break par.”

Hoping the course will be firmer and faster now, he said: “Pebble Beach probably couldn’t have set up any better for me than it did. It wasn’t a long golf course and there wasn’t a huge amount of rough around the fairways.

“It was all about the greens. It was about a positional iron play golf course, my iron play was really on that week and I putted great.

“Is Congressional going to be the same way? Is it going to set up for me? We’ll see. Am I better equipped? I’m certainly no less equipped that’s for sure.

“I’ve got the confidence now, and I’ve got the belief in myself that if I put myself in position at big events, I have the belief to go on and do it. It doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.

“I didn’t do it at The Players Championship but I’ve got the belief in myself to where if I get in position at a Major Championship that I will kick on.

“Maybe I’ll hole the putts, maybe I won’t. But I certainly feel well enough equipped to do it.

“If Congressional is to set up for me, it needs to firm up a little bit because it’s a long golf course.

“But I’ll go over there with a lot of confidence and it is going to be a great week.”

“Obviously I’ve got to hand that US Open trophy back which is not going to be very nice.

“When Thursday comes and goes, it’s going to be great to get that first round under my belt and get off and running.”