McDowell seeks his missing links spirit

McDowell seeks his missing links spirit
 Graeme McDowell hits in practice at Royal Troon

Graeme McDowell hits in practice at Royal Troon

Graeme McDowell believes he can tap into his Portrush links spirit and challenge for glory in The Open.

The Florida-based Ulster ace, 36, knows he’s a natural links player after growing up playing on the Valley Course in all weathers as a kid.

And that’s why he’s praying for wind and rain this weekend so the gofling gods can sort out the pretenders from the real links players.

McDowell said: “If I don’t win another major, I’ll be happy if I at least give myself a chance of one coming down the back nine on a Sunday between now and when it’s all said and done in my career. 

“Weeks like last me remind me that I was the kid running around the Valley Course at Portrush in all weather conditions.
— Graeme McDowell

“I want the weather to play a part this weekend for sure and I feel like the Scottish Open last week was great preparation on a lot of levels. 

“Living in America, playing on the PGA Tour, you don’t play a lot in bad weather. 

“So it’s a skill set that I feel like has gone away from me in recent years but it is coming back. 

“Weeks like last me remind me that I was the kid running around the Valley Course at Portrush in all weather conditions. 

“I still have that inside me. I can handle tough conditions. Give me some wind and rain this weekend and lets sort the links players out from the non links players.”

McDowell needs a big week to contend for a fifth Ryder Cup cap under skipper Darren Clarke. 

But he knows that will take care of itself if he puts in a title contending performance in Ayrshire where tactical talent is as important as power.

Reflecting on his form - he was 10th in the Scottish Open and 18th in the US Open, he said: “I was a little frustrated Sunday late on that I had let it slip, because I had played all the golf, but it is all there. My confidence, it is coming.

“I had a nice performance at the US Open  and I’m coming in here to a golf course I think appeals to my positional nature. 

“I think we are going to see a lot of different wind directions so it is a thinking man’s track. You’ve got to stay out of these bunkers, there’s not a ton of rough, it’s not terribly long, I like the way the challenge lays out for me.”

He’s a far different player now to the wide-eyed rookie who missed the cut on his major debut here in 2004.

He said: “I was like a rabbit in the headlights because this is the big show, a major championship set-up, all those things.

“I missed the cut comfortably but it was a learning experience. It was great but I didn’t have the tools for the test — that fade you need around here.”

Asked if he had the game to win the Open this week, he said: “I think it could be but several players in the field will probably have a problem with that, so we'll see. 

"It's all about the start, Thursday and Friday, getting the right side of the draw, getting off to a start.

"And if I can get into the weekend here and get the juices flowing again, I feel like I have a chance.”