Graeme McDowell insists a taste of Turkish delight this week could transform the year from hell into the promise of a sweet ’16 to come.
The former US Open champion has slipped from 15th to 80th In the world this season and insists will write off the European Tour season and turn his attention to the last two Fall Series events of the year in the US if he fails to grab a Top-two finish on his debut in this week’s Turkish Airlines Open.
The 36-year old Portrush man could be facing a difficult 2016 if he remains outside the world’s Top 50 in a Ryder Cup year.
But he honestly believes he’s slowly turning the corner with his game and reckons one good finish somewhere in the world over the course of the next month will put a different complexion on what’s been a 2015 campaign to forget
“I’d take a top five and a top 10 over these next three or four weeks here and sit down over my Christmas dinner and say, alright, not my best year but we are still where we need to be and we are ready to go.” McDowell said as he played the back nine on the Montgomerie Maxx Royal for the first time.
Ranked 64th in the Race to Dubai and needing only a modest finish to make the Top 60 who qualify for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, McDowell has set his sights far higher.
“Obviously I am not in the DP World Tour Championship right now,” McDowell said. “But if I had a big week this week, it would change things.
“If I don’t make a serious impact and I can’t get myself into the top-20 in the Race to Dubai from this week, I am not really going to pursue it because the Earth Course in Dubai is not really a good golf course for me anyway.”
Reunited with his old “fundamentals” coach Clive Tucker as well as current swing fixer Pete Cowen, he added: "I am highly motivated and I really felt like I have turned the corner so I am just trying to remain very patient and take each week as it comes and each week is an opportunity.
“I think the US PGA at Whistling Straits was the end of my patience. I played the first 27 holes as good as I can possibly hit the golf ball, and nine holes later I was packing my bags.
“That was the end of my patience there but after five weeks off, I think I have been a different person on the golf course ever since — very relaxed and starting to enjoy the game.”
Having broken par in 14 of his last 16 rounds, he put down poor finishes in the Alfred Dunhill Links and the British Masters to over-anxiousness to do well.
“I was frustrated very briefly just after those back nines,” he said. “I just got a bit ahead of myself, making old, immature mistakes. I haven’t been there for a while and I was just getting excited, needing it too much, trying too hard.
“It is hard to relax and let it happen when you haven’t really had it happen much lately. But we’re getting there.”
As for this week, he said: "I'm treating this as part of my general progression back to where I want to be
"This is another week where I want to come and compete and play well. if I don’t get myself into a position where I can chase going to Dubai, then I will go back play those two Fall Series events and get myself off and running on that."
His potential 2016 season is not a concern right now, not because he doesn't have headaches, but because he's living week to week in search of that jackpot performance.
"I will cross that bridge when I come to it," he said of his plans. "I have got this week plus those two Fall Series, which is my most likely route.
"One or two decent finishes and I am back where I want to be and I can salvage something out of the year.
"That’s the way I am looking at it. Come Jan 1, if we are not in the top-50, we will just have to ....it is not going to change our schedule between now and Doral, that will be the first hurdle really.
"I am playing Dubai in the New Year, and it is just a case of whether I play the two In the desert before that or play two in the west coast.
"It really depends how I play this next few weeks, so I have got options. I have got plenty of options, it is not really going to start breaking my heart until the summer."
The WGC Match Play comes first and McDowell is keeping his fingers crossed he'll be back at the top table by then.