Graeme McDowell believes he can challenge for a second U.S. Open Championship title as he returns to the scene of his greatest individual triumph this week.
The Northern Irishman tasted Major Championship glory nine years ago at Pebble Beach Golf Links as he finished a shot ahead of France’s Grégory Havret, with Ernie Els third and Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sharing fourth place.
Just four months later, McDowell holed the putt that sealed the vital point as Europe won the Ryder Cup and he hit a career high fourth on the Official World Golf Ranking early in the following year.
He has taken his tally of European Tour wins to ten since then but claimed a first victory worldwide for four years on the US PGA Tour in March, and a good result last week secured his place at The Open Championship on home soil at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
That form has put him on the verge of breaking back into the world's top 100 and as the 39-year-old prepares to tee off alongside Dustin Johnson and Mickelson, he feels he is ready to take his place back at golf's top table.
“Four or five months ago if you told me I’d be playing the first two rounds here with Dustin and Phil, with the way my game was, I would have been intimidated,” he said.
“But with the victory and some good finishes, the confidence is coming back and I feel very good about my game.
“It goes without saying I won once around here, I obviously feel like my game suits this golf course.
“And I’m certainly not here to take the views in as much as I’m here to compete. I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying to dissect this golf course and getting myself in position to contend this weekend.
I’m certainly not here to take the views in as much as I’m here to compete. I’m looking forward to the challenge - Graeme McDowell
“I’ve been working hard on my game the last couple of years and one of my big goals is to get myself back there on the back nine on Sunday afternoon in the not too distant future.
“I’d love another run at the top of the game, get myself back in the top 50 in the world and see if I can maybe get another big one before it’s all said and done.”
McDowell's victory in 2010 sparked a run of six consecutive Major wins for European Tour members and the two time Open de France champion can still vividly recall his moment of triumph.
"It was special to come back to this part of the world," he said. "It's just one of the most amazing pieces of golf real estate in the world and to feel like I'm part of the history on this place. As I get older, it's something I appreciate more and more and more.
"I've got my dad here again with me this week. A lot has changed in my life the last nine years but certainly amazing memories coming back here and I'm looking forward to the week."