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Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Graeme McDowell   (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell watched from afar as the carnage unfolded at Muirfield in 2002, but still rates The Open Championship as his best bet for a second Major title.

McDowell was just beginning his professional career that year and, having failed to qualify, went to Germany to compete in a Challenge Tour event instead.

And even though that event also suffered from bad weather and was eventually reduced to 54 holes, McDowell's second place kick-started his career in the paid ranks and two weeks later he won his first European Tour title in the Scandinavian Masters.

"I just remember that weather on the Saturday, the last time The Open was at Muirfield in 2002," recalled McDowell of the rain and wind that sent the Grand Slam-chasing Tiger Woods to an 81 and Colin Montgomerie to an 84.

"I remember where I was, I was in Germany playing my first ever Challenge Tour event. I finished second to Iain Pyman that weekend. I remember sitting in the clubhouse after the round and watching the carnage unfold at Muirfield.

"I had been to Open Qualifying and missed. Chubby (Chandler) was managing me at the time and he put me on a plane, kicking and screaming, to Germany to play a Challenge Tour event.

"Considering I had just played The Great North Open, Irish Open and European Open as my first three starts I was ready to go from a European Tour point of view, but in hindsight he did the best thing that he could possibly have done for me in getting me on the Challenge Tour and getting my confidence back up.

"I played another one the week after, finished top 20 then went to Sweden and won. So it was the precursor to something good happening."

Eight years later McDowell would win his first Major title in the US Open at Pebble Beach and the 33 year old is now targeting more glory at Muirfield after a strange season which has produced three wins and five missed cuts in his last eight events.

"I think the Open is the one I am most likely to win," the Northern Irishman added.

"I wouldn't put Augusta (venue for the US Masters) up there, that needs a bit of work.

"The US PGA is obviously an unknown quantity, sometimes they set it up like a US Open and sometimes they don't. So The Open, for sure.

"Which one would I love to win the most, if I could only win one more? Probably The Open over the Masters in a photo-finish. Probably just because of the home feel, the links and the history."

McDowell had a chance to win 12 months ago, starting the last round in the final group alongside leader Adam Scott, albeit four shots behind the Australian.

However, he could only manage a closing 75 to finish in a share of fifth and said: "I was reacting too much to what Adam was doing. He didn't look like a guy who was going to make a mistake.

"His long game was superb that day and if he had putted in any way decently, then it would have been all over with about six holes to go. I birdied eight then hit it over the back of nine, just being too aggressive I think if I remember correctly. From there on I was pushing too hard, (but) looking back it was a good experience."

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