Graeme McDowell insists he’ll be “fired up” and far from intimidated when he tees off his Open Championship bid with Tiger Woods at Muirfield.
The world No 7 has handed Woods his share of beatings over the past few years, taking the 2010 US Open as well as win two massive wins in the Tiger’s end of season World Challenge in Los Angeles.
Now the Portrush star is ready to take on Woods for major glory and he reckons the 14-time major winner could be the perfect pacemaker for a marathon test on a classic layout that suits their tactical style.
Rated one of the favourites to deny Woods that 15th major win, McDowell said: “It’s the pairing you want.
“I’ve tried the understated at Augusta and the US Open this year and missed the cut so let’s try the slightly less understated version.
“I don’t think you need to create any intensity on the Thursday of a major championship but it increases the focus, it increases the intensity, it gets you fired up and ready to go.
“I played with Tiger enough now over the years to be more than comfortable with it and you want to be playing with the best player in the world.
“He’s the kind of guy around a golf course set up like this that you want to be measuring yourself against.
“If you finish one ahead of Tiger this week you are not going to be far away.”
Woods and McDowell will be joined in the threeball by 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
But McDowell reckons that Woods will be the man to beat on a classic course that’s been baked hard and fast after a summer heatwave.
The last time an Open venue was burned golden brown by the sun was at Royal Liverpool in 2006.
But while McDowell opened with a scorching 66 to take the first round lead, it was Woods who walked away with the Claret Jug that week.
Keen to get his revenge this time, McDowell said: “The last time we played an Open this fast was Hoylake and he dismantled the place.
“Sure, this will appeal to his tactical sides but it will appeal to my own tactical sides as well. I am excited about it.
“I hope we get this stiff breeze we have right now for at least a couple of days.
“They are saying is not going to be around at the weekend, bit it will be a great test if we get a day or two like this to separate the wheat from the chaff.
“I came here for the first time last week and it completes my Open set — it’s the only course on the rota I had not played — and it’s special. And it’s very fair.
“A lot of the entrances to the greens have got that flat look to them so you can always chase something in.
“A few of the Open venues we go to can be a little bounce here and a bounce there. But at Muirfield, if you hit good shots you get rewarded,and if you hit bad shots you get punished.
“The rough is thick but in the right places. It is tight in places, wide in places and it’s got a bit of everything.”
Struggling world No 2 Rory McIlroy will go out with left-hander Phil Mickelson and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama with Padraig Harrington alongside American Michael Thompson and Scot Richie Ramsay.
Darren Clarke is drawn with pal Vijay Singh and Scot Martin Laird while Shane Lowry will tee it up with 2003 winner Ben Curtis and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello.
Debutant Gareth Maybin got American Scott Brown and Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira.