Saturday, 21 July 2012
Graeme McDowell   (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell hopes he can ensure his premonition of The Claret Jug remaining in Northern Irish hands comes true in The 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham.

For the second Major in succession, McDowell will start the final round in the last group after a third round 67 saw him finish seven under par, four shots behind leader Adam Scott.

The 32 year old finished second, just one shot behind champion Webb Simpson, as he sought a second US Open crown in San Francisco last month, but now aims to go one better and follow in the footsteps of last year's Open Champion and fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke.

"Darren was getting a few snaps and a few family portraits done with The Claret Jug last week," McDowell explained. "Some of the photos were pretty cool and I said to him, 'I've got a funny feeling that we'll maybe be bringing that Claret Jug back to Northern Ireland next week'.

"I was talking really from the opportunities that myself and him and Rory (McIlroy) and Michael Hoey have as a whole, and I guess it would be fairly prophetic if I happened to get the job done tomorrow evening.

"There's no doubt I think Darren will be an inspiration and someone that I'll think about a little bit tomorrow. Since I was a young boy I dreamed of coming down that last fairway on a Sunday afternoon, the last group in The Open Championship.

"This is special for me, back-to-back Major Championships to be in the last group on a Sunday afternoon.

"I talked about it early in the week. I can't expect to win this week, but what I can expect to do is compete if I do the right things, and to give myself a chance to be within three or four of the lead going into a Sunday afternoon and playing with the leader. That's really all I can ask and I'm right where I want to be."

Despite coming so close to winning the US Open again last month, McDowell was able to take the positives from being in serious contention for a Major for the first time since his victory at Pebble Beach in 2010.

"I think if you compare the final rounds of myself and (playing partner) Jim Furyk at Olympic, I was probably able to walk away a lot more positive than perhaps Jim was," McDowell added. "Jim had it right there and just didn't get the job done the last three holes.

"I kind of blew mine early doors. Through nine holes I'm four over par and my US Open chances are kind of gone. I battled really hard on the back nine to give myself a glimmer of hope, and it was only a glimmer.

"It's the first time I've really put myself in the absolute heat of the battle in a little while. I was reminded that I'm able to control my emotions correctly. I'm able to stay in the moment and just accept that tomorrow can go great and tomorrow can go badly.

"I can just try and hit the shots that I want and perhaps it will go my way tomorrow."

McDowell believes Lytham has been a "sleeping giant" so far this week with soft fairways and virtually no wind, but would prefer some testing conditions on Sunday to ensure Australia's Scott has to work for his first Major title.

"With conditions like today, perhaps four shots is insurmountable, because it will be in Adam's hands," McDowell added. "Throw a bit of wind across this course like perhaps they are forecasting, he will have to go and work a lot harder and he will have to go win it.

"It will be a case of keeping your head down for 13 or 14 holes, that's what I did at Pebble. I'm in a very similar position to what I was at Pebble, where I was three back. He (Scott) is going to be the guy who's going to sleep on the lead tonight. He's going to be the guy with all the pressure.

"And what I did at Pebble was just keep my head down for 11 or 12 holes and just come up for air and see where I'm at and refocus and get the head back down again.

"I'm probably not the only man in this field that's thought about picking this Claret Jug up. I've already thought about a few various liquids that I'd like to put in there and taste what they might taste like out of The Claret Jug.

"But I'm not the only man that wants this thing tomorrow. All I can do is dream big, and I certainly will be dreaming big tonight."

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