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Monday, 10 June 2013
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy will both attempt to make it three Northern Irish wins in four years this week as the US Open Championship heads to Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania for the season’s second Major.

The duo will spearhead a typically formidable band of European Tour stars as they bid to add their name to the trophy for a second time following McDowell’s 2010 triumph at Pebble Beach and McIlroy’s blitzing of Congressional in 2011.

McDowell is well versed at dealing with the challenges US Open Championships provide, as demonstrated when his defence of the title in 2011 resulted in a share of 14th place, and when he finished joint runner-up in 2012 behind American Webb Simpson, having gone into the final round tied for the lead.

The 33 year old heads to Ardmore, near Philadelphia, in a rich vein of form following recent victories in the Volvo World Match Play Championship and the RBC Heritage on the US PGA Tour, while McIlroy is aiming to reproduce the sort of form that yielded multiple wins last season, resulting in him being Number One on both sides of the Atlantic.

Another player well equipped to contest at Merion is World Number 11 Lee Westwood, who has notched three US Open top tens in the last five years and has been in fine form this season, coming close to winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club last month.

The 40 year old Englishman is looking forward to a somewhat different test this week, saying: “It's an old, traditional-style golf course that they have lengthened in places. It's tight and there are a lot of good, short par fours.

“The short holes are really short and the long holes are really long, I've heard. The long par threes are 250 yards, and the short par fours are between 350 and 400 yards, which we very rarely play nowadays.

“So it will be an interesting week. I hope they get the weather for the way they want the golf course to play. I think if it's wet, it could be torn apart.”

Joining McDowell and Westwood in the bid to continue The European Tour’s recent dominance in Major Championships are South Africans Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Englishmen Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, and rising star Thorbjørn Olesen of Denmark.

Olesen, 23, has made the cut in three of his first four Major appearances so far, including finishing tied sixth in the Masters Tournament in April, tied 27th at the US PGA Championship last August and tied ninth in The 141st Open Championship in 2012.

A number of other talented young players will be hoping to make their mark on the world stage, such as Eddie Pepperell, who took a share of sixth place at the BMW PGA Championship before qualifying for his Major debut at Walton Heath the following day.

The 22 year old is one of four European Tour Members making their Major bow – along with Scot Chris Doak, England’s John Parry and South African Jaco Van Zyl.

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