BETHESDA, Maryland (AP) ― Even an affable, easygoing guy like Graeme McDowell can succumb to the burden that comes with being a first-time U.S. Open champion.
The pride of Portrush, Northern Ireland, basked in a special 2010 that included the Father’s Day win at Pebble Beach, three other tournament wins and the Ryder Cup. Quite the talker, he’s happily relived it all many times in his mind ― and over and over and over with anyone who asked.
Graeme McDowell tees off during his U.S. Open practice round. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Now, after a shaky start to 2011, he’s ready to move on.
“You know, it’s bizarre,” McDowell said Tuesday as he prepares to defend his title at Congressional Country Club, “because if anything I feel like the glare is off me this week. I feel like I’ve done it. The last three or four months have been difficult.
“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. 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.”
It’s not as if McDowell has been a walking disaster on the course. In fact, it would have been asking a lot to carry his momentum into the new calendar year without some sort of letup. But he’s missed the cut in four of his last eight tournaments, lost a one-shot lead at The Players Championship by closing with 79 and shot a third-round 81 at the Wales Open this month.
“My focus has been way too much on winning,” McDowell said. “My expectation level, I mean, I’m going out there with the only goal of winning the golf tournament. That’s probably a little bit unrealistic because you can’t really be setting your goals that high. So the last round of The Players when it started to get away from me, it wasn’t like I threw the towel in, but subconsciously I felt the win getting away from me and I really lost that drive.”