Golf needs Woods, says McDowell as he prepares for U.S. Open defense

graeme mcdowell
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Graeme McDowell was disappointed at his showing in the recent Saab Wales Open, but remains upbeat about his game.
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PA Sport

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Published: Wednesday, June 08, 2011 | 1:07 p.m.

Defending U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell calls Tiger Woods’ decision to sit out Congressional and continue to heal as "a massive blow" to the game.

"We all hope as golfers that his health can come back,” he added. "Golf needs him. He has been golf for the last 15 years."

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McDowell is as unsure as anybody, though, about what the future now holds for the 35-year-old Woods, who has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open and a tournament for 19 months.

Asked whether Woods, down to 15th in the rankings, can return to his best the Northern Irishman commented: "That is the question. We all look at the way his last couple of years have gone and now there are questions over his physical health.

"Will he be back? Nobody knows at the minute,” he added. “There's obviously a lot going on. His mental health is one question and his physical health is now another."

McDowell became fully aware of Woods’ situation in May, when he saw Woods hobbling through the locker room on crutches at the Players Championship.

“The warning signs were there, but we thought he'd be ready for the U.S. Open,” he said. "Tiger plays his cards close to his chest and it's pretty difficult to know what's going on, but obviously this is a lot more serious than we thought. His quest to beat Jack Nicklaus's record is one of the great golf stories and we hope he gets better soon."

As for himself, McDowell opted to return home and put his feet up ahead of his U.S. Open defense.

The Northern Irishman will head to Congressional on the back of a disappointing display at the wet and windy Saab Wales Open, but he remains in an upbeat mood ahead of teeing off at Congressional next week.

He headed back home to Portrush “just to put the feet up and chill and recharge the batteries,” he said. "Then I am out to Orlando on Thursday, have a weekend's practice and up to Congressional probably next Sunday night.

"It's going to be tough. I saw the golf course a few weeks back -- it looked very long and demanding that day -- but hopefully it has firmed up a little bit,” he said. "It should be a great week. I am looking forward to defending."

McDowell is refusing to panic after failing to impress at Celtic Manor -- a venue that had previously offered him some champagne moments.

"The damage was done on Saturday (where he soared to a third-round 81) and the final round was about trying to go out and repair some of the damage,” he explained. "I played quite nicely. I struck the ball well. I had a disappointing finish (he bogeyed the 18th), but generally hit the ball good.

"I am not disturbed about my game in any shape or form. My game is in good shape, it's firing on all cylinders,” he said. "Of course, I have work to do between now and Congressional, but Saturday was just a bit of an anomaly. I lost the feel of my swing a little bit."