Tuesday, 14 June 2011
 Graeme McDowell   (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell was a relieved man at Congressional Country Club on Tuesday as he prepared to begin the rest of his career and draw a line under his US Open victory 12 months ago.

After the most incredible year he is ever likely to have McDowell, is now ready to put the past behind him and focus on the present again, starting with trying to win the US Open for a second time.

"It's tough to look forward when all everybody wants to talk about is the past, but this is my last bit of talking and I'm really happy it's all done," said the Ulsterman at his final news conference before his title defence starts on Thursday.

"It's bizarre because if anything I feel like the glare's off me this week," added the first European to win the event since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

"Somehow, having arrived here, I feel like I've done it now.

"I've handed my trophy back and I'm ready to sort of get on with the rest of my career.

"I've got nothing to defend this week. I'm level par Thursday morning the same as everyone else."

McDowell has never considered what he did a year ago at Pebble Beach or against the United States in The Ryder Cup  at Celtic Manor a burden, but he feels free now to concentrate on what comes next.

"Can I ever top 2010? I probably can't top the way it felt to win my first major championship and to hole the winning putt at the Ryder Cup, but I can have a similar competitive year," said the 31 year old.

"I'm here at a US Open for the first time believing in myself that I can win on a US Open set-up because I did it last year.

"I felt different on the golf course yesterday. I really felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders already."

His excitement about the task ahead is also because his view on what it will take to win has changed radically since he visited the course in early May.

With his game not in great shape back then, it left him fearing the worst. But now things are different.

"There's always a bit of a danger coming to a major championship venue weeks in advance - the course can change so significantly.

"It was a lot softer, a lot colder and it was playing substantially longer.

"I really enjoyed it yesterday. I thought with the firmer and faster fairways it was very playable.

"The course doesn't feel long any more. The 11th (a 494-yard uphill par four) played down wind and I hit eight iron - when I came here eight weeks ago I played it off the very back tee and hit driver, three wood short.

"It's amazing how a course can change. I don't think length is a massive issue at all - I think accuracy off the tee is key because these greens are so firm you're going to have to be able to control your flight.

"I don't really see a lot of opportunities for guys biting off too much of these corners. You've got to shape the ball around trees and you've got to find fairways.

"Someone asked me what type of player does this favour. I'm still trying to work that out, but it's certainly not a bomber."

On what went wrong in losing the lead in the Players Championship and from a strong position in Walesrecently, McDowell stated: "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 - you can't really be setting your goals that high.

"I've got to realise that consistent golf is what it's all about and you don't have to win every week to be a top player."

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