Links "baptism of fire" can help McDowell's major ambitions
 Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell reckons his week from hell at Royal County Down could help him win more majors — including the Claret Jug.

It was no surprise that former Open winner Darren Clarke topped the Irish charts in 28th spot on six over after a brilliant closing 71 in winds gusting over 35mph.

But while McDowell wasn’t doing somersaults after a 75 left him tied 30th on seven over, he reckons the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has reminded him what he needs to do to win The Open.

In fact, he even reckons he can improve his game for this month’s US Open at linksy Chambers Bay.

G-Mac said: “Going into the summer of unprecedented amounts of links golf we have ahead of us, this is a real baptism of fire.

“It’s not going to get any more difficult that this from here. I can’t imagine the Open Championship playing this difficult.”

McDowell grew up playing Royal Portrush but like Pádraig Harrington, who shot 76 to finish tied for 43rd with Shane Lowry on 10 over, he admits he’s gone soft in the US.

McDowell said: “I grew up playing this stuff but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know how to play this any more.

“It’s great to come out here and get punished for a few days and really play some raw golf and realise you don’t have the skill set you used to have and you might want to get it back if you want to win some Open Championships. 

“It’s going to prepare me well for the summer.”

Clarke shot a brilliant level par 71 and admitted: “It was tough, hard, really really hard.

“Some of the holes were verging on the unplayable but that’s links golf and that’s what it is, a very tough test.

“I think it has been a huge success, playing here on one of the best golf courses in the world in tough conditions.”

Lowry found the course “tricky” as he closed with a 77 and reckoned the lack of birdies did little to create crowd buzz.

The Offaly ace said: "I was a bit flat all weekend and definitely today I was a little bit flat.  

“The second shot into the 8th hole today was nearly impossible.  The tee shot at the seventh…. I just think that this course is a bit tricky to be honest.”

Two time Open champion Harrington admitted he struggled on the greens but he also confessed that it was too tough for most, especially the visitors.

Having led by five shots after 27 holes, he ended up 12 shots outside the playoff and admitted: “We follow nice weather and nice conditions all the time and as amateurs were were used to it, but as pros we get a little softer.”

Even former Royal County Down assistant Simon thornton struggled, carding an 80 to share 60th on 14 over.