The last time Graeme McDowell sat in a US Open press room, he was cradling the trophy in his arms and setting about the business of introducing himself to the American sporting public. Nearly twelve months removed from that chaotic Sunday at Pebble Beach, G-Mac sat down to reflect on a disorienting year in the golfing spotlight and the strange relief that comes with handing a major championship trophy back.
Asked about playing Congressional under the glare of media anticipation, the Northerner offered shared his slightly counter-intuitive angle on his role in the week’s event.
“You know, it’s bizarre because if anything I feel like the glare is off me this week. I feel like I’ve done it… I’ve spent the last just under 12 months looking back at Pebble. I spent the last six months reflecting on 2010. And I mean, somehow having arrived here this week, I feel like I’ve done it now.
“I’m back — yeah, my U.S. Open trophy is back here with the USGA. I’ve handed it back and I’m ready to sort of get on with the rest of my career now… I’ve got nothing to defend this week. I’m level par Thursday morning the same as everyone else.”
If the pressure of being a major champion had begun to weigh heavily on the McDowell’s shoulders in recent months, might that explain his unpredictable form this season, particularly his highly publicized crashes at both The Player’s and the Wales Open?
“I think pretty much the only thing I’ve come up with is that my focus has been way too much on winning… That’s probably a little bit unrealistic because you can’t be setting — you can’t really be setting your goals that high… I’ve lost that drive to grind the top 10s and the top 5s out, the things that drive consistency…
“So I feel like The Player’s when it got away from me I went chasing it, because all I wanted to do was win it. At Wales when it got away from me, it was a tough day that Saturday and I had a freaky first seven or eight holes where I paid maximum penalty for some not terrible golf shots and that got away from me. Again, I went chasing it and the second that I couldn’t win the golf tournament subconsciously I lost that drive to dig in.
So that’s pretty much the only thing I’ve came up with. I’ve really got to reset my goals and realize that consistent golf is what it’s all about…”
It sounds an awful lot like McDowell has managed to talk himself into a positive frame of mind ahead of Thursday’s first round, which he’ll be playing in the company of Peter Uihlein and Louis Oosthuizen.