Low expectations can help McDowell
Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell believes his lack of form could be a blessing in disguise on a course that drives him to distraction.

Bidding to make the cut for just the third time in eight starts in the Masters, the Ulsterman admits that Augusta National has put him in a “padded cell” more than once.

“Sometimes it can be dangerous to be playing extremely well coming in here because it gets you to take too much on,” said McDowell, who says he rested and recovery from the ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from the Texas Valero Open two weeks ago,

“Sometimes when you are a tiny bit off and have to play a tiny bit safer and smarter, that can be a good recipe around here so it's getting that right balance.”

The 35-year old, who has fallen from 15th to 28th in the world since the end of last season, admits he’d happily settle for four rounds and a Top 20 finish on a track that simply doesn’t suit his game.

“Sometimes I have required a padded cell when I've walked off the 18th green because I have got frustrated,” he said. 

“But I have learned to understand why the course frustrates you, because it makes you play with the handbrake on. You have to take it off sometimes and play aggressively to conservative targets.”

McDowell knows he hasn’t got the length to compete with the Rory McIlroys, Dustin Johnsons and Bubba Watsons of the world and that’s why he’s concentrating on his chipping, his putting and his strategy.

“Despite the fact that my record round here is not great, I do love this golf course,” he said. “I could easily play it every day and be very content.

“I am really focusing hard on my chipping and putting this year. I haven't putted well enough here and it seems like such an obvious key round here. The big focus is getting the hang of the greens.

“I have been a tiny bit off this year and I just need to see the ball behaving itself. 

“Yes, it has been a slow start from a scheduling point of view an a results point of view but it is a long season so no panic buttons are required. 

“Expectation levels can’t be very high for me this week so while I;m not ruling anything out a Top 15 or 20 and I can move on to Hilton Head next week, a course which really suits me, and looked forward to the rest of the season.”

As for  the return of Tiger Woods and McIlroy’s bid to complete the career Grand Slam with a Masters win, McDowell added: “It’s great for golf it have Tiger back and the buzz that brings out there and it was always going to be exciting with Rory chasing the Rory Slam. 

“Of the four majors, if you’d told me he was going to have three of them and needed a fourth, I’d have figured he’d have won about three Masters by that point. So it’s surprising that this is the one (he needs) but if he could design a golf course it would probably look something like this.

“I expect him to win  a Masters at some point in his career and there is no reason why it can’t be this week.”