Maturing McDowell feeling confident: "The omens are good"

Graeme McDowell has that Pebble Beach feeling all over again and reckons he’s a far better player than the “kid” who ended up burnt out and “in a body bag” at Hoylake eight years ago.

The Ulsterman, 34, tees it up in his 11th Open Championship with Matt Kuchar and Louis Oosthuizen on Thursday hellbent on repeating his feat of 2010, when he won a tour event and a major in back to back outings.

Four years ago, the Portrush battler won the Wales Open, went home to recharge his batteries and then came back out to win the US Open at Pebble Beach.

After successfully defending the French Open two weeks ago, McDowell is now recharged and refreshed for a tilt at the Claret Jug, insisting: “It’s got that same build up to it. 

“I won, went back in Orlando for four or five days just to relax and play some golf. I was chilling and recharging and now I’ve  come in here early and I’m preparing. The omens are good.”

McDowell played Hoylake in a stiff breeze soon after jetting in on Sunday and found it a far tougher test that when he stopped off for a practice round en route to the Irish Open three weeks again.

But he knows he's also a far more accomplished player than the 26-year old who fired an opening 66 to lead in 2006 only to crash to 61st after a jaded, final round 79.

Recalling how the 2006 Open was his ninth event in 11 weeks, he said: “My caddie Kenny had just started working for me and I was in a body bag. I was committing scheduling suicide at the time in an attempt to make the Ryder Cup team.

“Having taken my PGA Tour card and injured by back at the end of the year, I just wasn’t in a good place.

“But we learned a lot from that year the two of us. He learned a lot about me  and thankfully saw enough potential in me to stay with me. It’s been a fun ride ever since.”

Urging caution after playing Hoylake in two different winds on Sunday and again yesterday, McDowell’s experienced enough now to know that he’s got to be patient this week.

He said: “This is a tough week. This is a grind. But i’m thinking about how different a player I am eight years on from 2006, when I was leading after the first round, just knowing what I know now, knowing these things are marathons.

“I experienced a couple of major championships back in those days where I got off to good starts and burnt out at the weekend.

“I did here and in the US Open at Winged Food in 2006 and I didn’t have a concept in my mind of what it means to win over a 72-hole stretch in a major championship, physically and mentally how demanding it is.

“So it’s fun to realise and sort of acknowledge how different a player I am from the kid who led after the first round in 2006.”

What pleased McDowell most about winning in France two weeks ago was not his golf but the fact that his competitive instincts are intact.

He said: “I’d be lying if I said to you that I hit it my best in France. But the competitive instinct is there.

"My game is always there, more or less, but competitive juices were there and you can’t buy that. That’s what’s more important. All I have to do now is pull it all together.”