Sunday 23 October 2016

McDowell excited by challenge of course

Graeme McDowell admits he has sometimes needed to spend time in a padded room after failing to get to grips with the challenges posed by Augusta National.

But the former US Open champion is optimistic he can improve on his Masters record this week after overcoming an ankle injury which forced him to withdraw from the Valero Texas Open last month.

"It was the third time in my career I've had to withdraw from a tournament and it's not something I enjoy doing," McDowell said after a practice round at Augusta. "I was not really sure the extent of how much I had hurt myself and nearly withdrew from the pro-am on Wednesday, and probably should have in hindsight.

"It was a peroneal tendon strain and, with a big season ahead, I didn't want to force anything. This is the first 18 holes I have walked since, and I feel good, so we are actually in better shape than we expected."

McDowell has made the cut just twice in seven attempts in the Masters - although he finished 17th in 2009 and 12th in 2012 - and concedes the long course does not suit his game.

But the 35-year-old added: "Despite the fact that my record round here is not great, I do love this golf course. I could easily play it every day and be very content.


"It's such a great golf course, you learn something about it every year. I was out there just picking up little nuances that I haven't perhaps noticed before and putting those in the memory bank and trying to apply your knowledge and experience and hope that some year I can come here and really compete. This could be the year.

"I am excited. I am really focusing hard on my chipping and putting this year. I haven't putted well enough here and it seems like such an obvious key round here.Sometimes I have required a padded cell when I've walked off the 18th green because I have got frustrated, but I have learned to understand why the course frustrates you, because it makes you play with the handbrake on. You have to take it off sometimes and play aggressively to conservative targets.

"That's a sort of sports psychology thing, but it means you take shots on that you fancy and if you don't like it you have to play safe. Sometimes it can be dangerous to be playing extremely well coming in here because it gets you to take too much on. Sometimes when you are a tiny bit off and have to play a tiny bit safer and smarter, that can be a good recipe around here so it's getting that right balance."

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