McDowell returns to Wales Open, where his amazing 2010 run began

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Graeme McDowell is excited to be back at Celtic Manor, the scene of two of the biggest highlights from his career-defining 2010 season.
By
PA Sport

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Defending the U.S. Open in two weeks' time is the big date coming up for Graeme McDowell, but first comes this week's Saab Wales Open -- and he wants to win that again, too.

McDowell's name will always be associated with Celtic Manor for his Ryder Cup heroics last October. But it was over the same course that the greatest year of the Northern Irishman's life was kickstarted four months earlier, and now he is back looking for the same boost in confidence that he took away then.

Despite the presence of only three of his 2010 Ryder Cup teammates -- Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez -- McDowell is not one to downgrade the importance of the next four days.

"There's no doubt that some tournaments create their own intensity level on the first tee on a Thursday morning and perhaps other don't," he said. "But that's the art of scheduling. I want to be up for every tournament I play in.

"I don't ever want to be at an event saying 'What am I doing here?' -- that's a trap you never want to fall into. It's happened in the past,” he admitted. "Every tournament counts in the world rankings and it's important you turn up every week wanting to play.

"Thankfully I have a great schedule, I haven't experienced any of that kind of stuff and I'm certainly not going to experience that this week,” he added. "I'm excited to be back and I'll be right up for it."

In practice, McDowell couldn’t resist going back to the exact same spot on the 16th green and trying again his 20-foot Ryder Cup-clinching "shot of the year" against Hunter Mahan. But he also has the memory of how he finished the Wales open 12 months ago -- rounds of 64 and 63 that he describes as "probably some of the best golf I've every played."

It took him from six shots off the pace at halfway to a three-stroke win over Welshman Rhys Davies, with current world No. 1 Luke Donald two shots further back in third.

McDowell played the first two rounds of the BMW PGA Championship last week, and calls Donald as "the full package."

"It gives me a lot of confidence seeing a guy like Luke having his game as polished as it is right now," said McDowell. "When you play with guys like maybe Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy, they do things with a golf ball I am not sure I could do. I am never going to be able to fly it 350 yards, but when I look at Luke, who has a type of game like I have which is not a power game, it's a controlled game with a great short game and a great putter. I know I can get that good.

"It is Luke's level of consistency that has blown me away at the minute,” he explained. "How does he keep doing what he's doing? The schedule he has just played -- the business end of the Players Championship, Volvo World Match Play and then the (BMW) PGA -- he is just churning it out week after week. It's incredible.

"I remember playing a practice round with him at the Ryder Cup here at Celtic Manor last year, and he really impressed me. He is continuing to play that way --  he has got the full package."

Donald is competing in America this week following his dramatic victory over Lee Westwood at Wentworth on Sunday, and McDowell's cup partner Rory McIlroy has preferred Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament as well.

Westwood, meanwhile, is on a week off before defending in Memphis next week, and that is where Padraig Harrington will make his return from a knee injury. Also not playing from Europe's side are Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and the Molinari brothers, but Captain Colin Montgomerie and assistants Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn are in the field.

Montgomerie's mind has gone back to last October too and, as meticulous as he was as captain, he has one regret.

Seve Ballesteros spoke to the team on the telephone in the build-up and Montgomerie said: "I just wish we had taped the words.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I wish someone had recorded what he said because it was that good and that passionate and everyone left that room thinking 'Wow' -- even the guys that had played in the Ryder Cup before,” Montgomerie said. "It was certainly a very special 10 minutes or so for us all."