McDowell bruised but wiser after descent from the summit

McDowell bruised but wiser after descent from the summit
 Its time for Graeme McDowell to reflect on a watershed year in his career. Credit: www.golffile.ie

Its time for Graeme McDowell to reflect on a watershed year in his career. Credit: www.golffile.ie

Graeme McDowell will go out of his way to help the media but while he wouldn’t take back a second of his year as US Open champion, he will have learnt some valuable lessons along the way.

He’s given countless interviews since his victory at Pebble Beach and opened his homes in Florida and Ireland to reporters and TV crews from all over the world.

Out of loyalty to his sponsors, he’s played in events he might have skipped and played others he simply felt like playing. As a result, he’s had little time to allow his body and mind to recover and finds himself in something of a golfing no-man’s land as he prepares for his title defence at Congressional next week.

Is the glass half full or half empty? In McDowell’s case, you’d bet on the half full option every time.

What stands out about himis his ability to talk positively about his game and his ambitions. But even the man himself now admits that there are issues to be addressed, which is anothe positive sign

After his third round 81 at Celtic Manor, Sky’s Tim Barter opened his interview with this:

“You told us after two rounds that all aspects of your game were in good order. How do you explain what happened today?”

McDowell arched an eyebrow when he heard that, replying with a laugh: “Did I say that, for real?”

The issues that affected his game on Saturday have been festering for some time and he admitted that things were a work in progress.

After his final round, he was almost back on message, calling his third round “an anomaly” and insisting that he was not disturbed about his game “in any shape or form.”

“My game is in good shape, it’s firing on all cylinders,” he said. “Of course, I have work to do between now and Congressional, but yesterday was just a bit of an anomaly. I lost the feel of my swing a little bit.”

It’s part of the challenge for a professional golfer to keep the negative at bay without burying your head in the sand and McDowell appears to have found of way of striking a good balance. between the Jeckyll and Hyde characters. In fact, he did a tad more soul-searching when giving a reflective interview to Sky Sports’ Special Report earlier this week.

“My form hasn’t been the way I’d like it,” added McDowell. “You’ve got to reflect and try to find out where your weaknesses are. Is it technique? Is it mental? It’s a combination of everything.

 

“I’m not hitting the ball well, it’s as simple as that, and mentally you’re not in a good place when you’re not playing well. I’ve got to get my swing back.

 

“I’ve been trying to adapt to the lifestyle of being a top player, being under the microscope and having busier tournament weeks.

 

“It’s important I keep prioritising my practice, my family and my friends and make sure I turn up on a Thursday morning ready to go every week.”

McDowell continued: “I had 10 or 12 pounds of celebratory beer and champagne at the end of last season. I’m trying to lose that and settle back into my routine.

“Despite what happened to me in 2010 with the US Open, the Ryder Cup and getting to number four in the world, I’m still a golfer and I still want to win golf tournaments and be the best I can be.

 

“This year started off pretty good, though I’ve gone off the boil over the last couple of months. But this game throws you the odd rough patch and I’m looking forward to getting my game back in shape and, if I can rekindle a bit of my form, competing for that number one spot.”

So where does all this leave him with just over a week of his reign as US Open champion remaining? A few days’ home cooking in Portrush will have done him the power of good. And he may well find out why the pull-hook reared its ugly head in Wales when he meets up with his coach Pete Cowen in Orlando over the weekend.

They managed it before the Players Championship, where McDowell led the tournament through 54 holes only to see his horror shot creep back into his game at the end of a gruelling week.

Whatever happens in Bethesda, his 12-month reign has been a glorious one and while the down weeks were always bound to come after such incredible highs in 2010, he has spent a long time training at altitude for another crack at the summit.

Coming down from the mountain has been tough. But he already knew it would be.

He will never forget how Michael Campbell compared winning a major to scaling Everest. More people are killed coming down the mountain because their life’s ambition had been achieved, the Kiwi explained. No one prepares you for that part of the journey.

Learning to move safely down from the mountain top to base camp before preparing for another 8K climb is part of the beauty of the challenge that lies ahead and it’s a voyage of discovery that McDowell will have thoroughly enjoyed.