Graeme McDowell holes that crucial Ryder Cup birdie putt at Celtic Manor’s 16th. Hunter Mahan folded when he fluffed a chip on the next. Picture ©Getty ImagesGraeme McDowell has fired the first shot in the psychological battle for the Ryder Cup.

Europe’s match-winning hero at Celtic Manor two years ago has been talking up the US team since last December.

And he made sure he heaped more pressure on Davis Love’s Americans stars when the US skipper named his four wildcards this week.

Speaking ahead of the third FedEx Cup event in Indiana, G-Mac told the Golf Channel’s Randall Mell: “It speaks volumes about the American team that Hunter Mahan wins twice this year and does not get on that team.

“It speaks volumes about how strong they are.”

Of course, Mahan famously crumpled under pressure against McDowell in the decisive singles in Wales, fluffing a 17th hole chip to hand victory to Europe after the Portrush star had holed a crunch putt on the 16th to edge in front.

But McDowell has been saying since the end of last year that the US will be more hungry and dangerous than ever when they try to win back the trophy at Medinah in three weeks’ time.

And that fits perfectly into European skipper Jose Maria Olazabal’s plan to go to Chicago as underdogs.

Love went for the experience of Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, the power of Dustin Johnson and the all round short game strength of Brandt Snedeker.

And the bookies quickly made the home side odds on favourites to win on US soil for the second time in a row despite losing five of the last six matches.

Looking at a team without WGC-Accenture Match Play champion Mahan, recent FedEx Cup event winner Nick Watney or Wells Fargo champion Rickie Fowler, McDowell said: “I think Davis Love could have tossed the names up in the air and taken any four and had a good team.

“They are both very good teams, and it’s going to be very competitive and tight and will go down to the last few games. I’m excited.”

McDowell has been talking up the Americans since the end of last year, insisting that young guns like Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson will be hungry for some Ryder Cup revenge.

G-mac warned: “For the last couple of Ryder Cups Europeans have been going in as bookmaker’s favourites for the first time. That brings its own pressure and expectation level.

“Yes, European golf has had a great four or five years. We’ve been winning the major championships and dominating world golf, no doubt about it.

“But I feel the tide is turning a little bit. The Americans are getting strong and they’ve got a great bunch of young players coming through who really see the Ryder Cup for what it is.”

McDowell is expected to form a formidable partnership with world No 1 Rory McIlroy.

But his priority this week is to recover some of his spark and make the season-ending Tour Championship by finishing in the top-5 in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick in Indiana this week.

He missed the cut in The Barclays and then limped home 27 shots behind McIlroy in Boston on Monday, sharing 74th place to leave his FedEx Cup hopes hanging by a thread.

Down to 41st in the FedEx Cup race with only the top 30 progressing to the Tour Championship, he said: “I think I’ll need a top five this week to make it.

“I am, by my own admission, a little flat the last couple weeks, maybe struggling to kind of get going after the US PGA Championship.

“It’s very hard to switch off after that and switch on for something, the FedEx Cup playoffs, that I’m still trying to get my head around. It’s only my second FedEx Cup.

“I have a big job to do this week, and I’m motivated.”

Padraig Harrington faces and even bigger task to make it to Atlanta and could need a top-three finish to make it to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2009.