G-Mac flees from Memphis blues: "I feel I've turned the corner"

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell might be struggling for motivation in the wake of his new-found fatherhood but he need only look at the world rankings and the looming US Open if he’s searching for a reason to play well in the FedEx St Jude Classic this week.

Now 43rd in the world, he was 15th in December and sixth at the end of 2010 when he won the US Open, the Ulsterman admits he’s hoping to get some “competitive sharpness” in Memphis so he can challenge for his second major at Chambers Bay.

“When it comes to preparing for major championships there are a few ways you can do it, you can try and simulate the conditions you’ll find the following week,” he said.

"The way that the US Open jumps around it's very difficult to have a solid warm-up venue the week before so you've got to take the rough with the smooth.

"Some years it's going to be a great preparation and some years maybe not.

"I think the comparison of the two golf courses is that they're at opposite ends of the spectrum but I love coming here and getting some competitive sharpness.

"I think, going into a major championship, preparing and playing the golf course and having your game plan together is key - but being competitively sharp and feeling confident that you are playing well, those are just important.

Graeme McDowell

“For me it’s been a slow year, I kind of feel that my game's turning a corner so I'll be teeing it up and trying to get some competitive sharpness."

He added: "I like the golf course a lot.  I think it sort of sets up for my style of game where a lot of accuracy required off the tee, and coming into these very tricky greens.  Like I say, a couple of top 25s here, probably should have done better in both, but I guess when it comes to preparing for major championships, there are various ways you can do it.”

McDowell is keeping an open mind on Chambers Bay, believing that staying positive about a course he hasn’t yet seen will be key to winning or losing.

"I'm not really kind of giving much weight to the things I've heard.  I’m really just going to try and go in there with my eyes open and try and dissect the golf course and find out how my game gets around there, I suppose. 

"It doesn't really matter what the golf course is like and how many guys like it or loathe it.  Someone is going to pick the U.S. Open trophy up next week, and a lot of it may come down to the attitude that you have towards the test. 

"Really trying to just give it a good shot this week.  You know, I'd love to win one of these next two weeks, and I'm not really fussy much to be honest with you.  I’m a guy who's searching for some confidence in his game, and I would love to be on the leaderboard here this weekend in Memphis, and if winning here this week meant that I wasn't going to perform next week, you know, I might take that right now. 

"I'm really looking at it as a two‑week journey trying to play as well as I can this week, and then go over there and dissect the course and try and win another U.S. Open trophy.  Looking forward to the couple weeks. 

Asked about his struggles with his game, he admitted that it was hard to pinpoint where they began - in the mind or in the body.

“You know, I think I’m not really sure which came first, but I’ve had some sort of issues regards motivation, and that’s led to some technical issues,” he said. 

“I think getting married and having babies and kind of enjoying the fun things in life off the golf course have distracted me a little bit on the course, and my game has suffered a little bit.  

"Some renewed desire the last three or four months and just kind of been grinding away, trying to get my golf swing back in shape.  It's just been general stuff.  There’s been nothing in particular.  

“It's just been a little lack of general sharpness, and I've just been chipping away at everything really.  

“I feel I've turned the corner. I’ve hit the ball much more solidly the last couple months on and off. 

"This is golfing season right now.  From this week through the FedEx Playoffs I'm going to play a lot of golf, and you know, you're never anything‑‑ a couple of great weeks can certainly get a season back on the rails again.  I’m focused and excited about the challenge coming up.”

Padraig Harrington is also looking for a positive week in Memphis but he must win to qualify for the US Open. 

Ranked 91st in the world, he needs to be in the Top 60 on Sunday night to secure a place at Chambers Bay and nothing but a win in Memphis will do.

“I’ll be there trying to put in a big performance," he said at Royal County Down. “It’s a big ask to go out and win on demand for sure but we will have to give it a go. I like the event and I have contended for it once before.”

Bernd Wiesberger. Picture © Getty Images

European Tour - Lyoness Open

Bernd Wiesberger is ready to carry the hopes of a nation into the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity as the Austrian seeks to reclaim his national Open Championship.

The 29 year old has already won the event (in 2012), being hosted for the sixth successive season at the Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg, but would love nothing more to go one better than last year when he lost out in a sudden-death play-off to Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg.

Ireland has six players in the field and several need big weeks as they battle for their playing rights for 2016.

Only Michel Hoey and Damien McGrane have full playing privileges though the Ulsterman is 122nd in the Race to Dubai and McGrane a lowly 179th.

Phelan is 82nd but he is reliant on invitations to boost a weak playing category while Lawrie (131st), Maybin (209th) and Thornton (227th) are also desperate for a good week.

 Thomas Pieters. Picture © Getty Images

Thomas Pieters. Picture © Getty Images

Challenge Tour — Seven Irish join Pieters in Belgium

Rising star Thomas Pieters would have been forgiven for wanting some time off this week, having played the last four events in a row.

But when he realised the Challenge Tour was playing in Belgium, his home country, there was only one option.

The 23 year old from Antwerp has not played competitively on home soil since 2008, and he arrives at Golf de Pierpont in a relaxed mood, relishing the opportunity to catch up with old friends.

“I just wanted to play at home because it’s been so long since I was able to do that,” said Pieters, who came through all three stages of the European Tour Qualifying School in 2013.

“I was at college in the States so I didn’t have the chance to play the Belgian Challenge Tour events. I wanted to take a week off this week, but then I saw this event was on and I added it to the schedule.

“This is five in a row for me now, but it’s more relaxing and I can go home and sleep in my own bed. I have a friend caddieing for me too, so it’ll be a lot of fun.

“I’m happy to be here and excited to play tomorrow. I last played this course when I was about 13 or 14 so it was a long time ago. I’ve heard it’s very firm and fast. I had a look around late yesterday afternoon and it looks in really good condition.”

The Irish challenge is headed by Rosapenna's Ruaidhri McGee, who is ninth in the Road to Oman standings with €27,996.

Gareth Shaw (109th) and Mick McGeady (127th) are joined by four players who have yet to make any cash on the Challenge Tour this year. 

Birr's Stephen Grant has missed three cuts while satellite tour regulars Richard Kilpatrick, Cian Curley and David Rawluk are making their first appearances of the season on the second tier circuit.