Patient approach to master Augusta for Graeme McDowell

Northern Irishman had a great 2010, now to take the next step.

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Allan Kelly

Augusta // A year ago, Graeme McDowell arrived at Augusta National short of form and clinging desperately to a place in golf's top 50, the qualifying standard for the first of the year's major tournaments.

All that changed in the course of an extraordinary summer when the man from Northern Ireland became the first European winner of the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. McDowell then went on in October to play a key role in Europe's Ryder Cup triumph.

Finally, in December, he gave Tiger Woods a four-shot start in the final round of the Chevron World Challenge in California and beat him in a play-off.

Even the world No 1 spot has reared into view for a player who has suddenly emerged as a world-class talent.

Asked what he had most discovered about himself over the course of the past 12 months, McDowell replied: "Probably that I'm good enough.

"I've never really been blessed with the talent of a Rory McIlroy or a Tiger Woods or a Sergio Garcia or somebody like that.

"I've always had to work hard at my game. Things always came a little more difficult for me than other guys.

"I guess 2010 proved to me that I'm good enough. I know where I can go with my game and I guess what last year told me is that I'm on the right path and, you know, if I can put things together on the right weeks, that I'm good enough to win the big tournaments."

Next up for McDowell is getting to grips with Augusta National.

He has played in three previous Masters tournaments and made the cut only once, in 2009, when he did finish as top European, but in a lowly 17th-place tie.

He does not believe his game is unsuited to the course or that the pressure of playing at the legendary course is overwhelming.

He said time and patience are required to work out how best to play Augusta National.

Said McDowell: "When I came here in 2005, it was like: 'Are you kidding me, how do I get around this place?' I played with [Ben] Crenshaw that year, and he showed me how to putt the greens.

"I've got a pretty good bank of memories now and plenty of good lines in my books and I have a pretty good knowledge base now."

McDowell will set out in today's first round in the company of Woods and Australia's Robert Allenby, ensuring huge galleries, but he said that will not pose him problems. "I feel like I've played with Tiger enough now to where it's pretty normal, I guess," he said. "I've got to go and play my own game and let him play his game. Once you get used to the whole buzz that surrounds him, especially inside the ropes, once you get your head around that, it's pretty normal.

"I would have been intimidated a couple of years ago but nowadays it's reasonably normal. I was expecting to get a draw somewhere along those lines this week."

As an added incentive, McDowell knows that he is one of six players in the draw who can end the week as world No 1 which, he agreed, "would be nice".

* Agence France-Press