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McDowell back at Celtic Manor for Wales Open

LONDON - U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell will return to the scene of his unforgettable Ryder Cup triumph when he defends his Wales Open title at Celtic Manor this week.

McDowell regained The Ryder Cup for Europe in dramatic fashion on the Twenty Ten course last October, securing the winning point in his singles match against Americanr Hunter Mahan with a memorable putt at the 16th.

It was last year’s win in the Wales Open and follow-up major breakthrough at Pebble Beach that vaulted McDowell onto the European team.

The 31-year-old Northern Irishman is without a win in 2011 and is looking for Celtic Manor to again turn his season around.

“Hopefully I can use this week as the same kind of catalyst as I did last year,” McDowell said. “Win or don’t win, hopefully I can try to kick on from here and have a great season.

“This time last year, I had achieved nothing and then the next six or eight months was like something I had never imagined. This is really a good place for me to tune back into the way I felt this time last year.”

McDowell, who shot rounds of 63 and 64 on the final two days to defeat local favorite Rhys Davies and current No. 1 Luke Donald in last year’s tournament, is the highest-ranked player competing this week, at No. 5 in the world.

“That was probably some of the best golf I’ve every played,” McDowell said. “I’m excited to be back and I’ll be right up for it.

“I took a huge amount of confidence away from this tournament and went from strength to strength at Pebble Beach and won there. It was certainly the catalyst for 2010, and it’s great to be back.”

McDowell couldn’t resist going back to the same spot on the No. 16 green and attempting to recreate the 20-foot putt against Mahan that restored Europe as Ryder Cup champion.

Donald is competing at Jack NicklausMemorial Tournament in the United States following his playoff win over Lee Westwood in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth that also brought the No. 1 ranking. Ryder Cup teammate Rory McIlroy is also playing in the American event.

Also not playing from Europe’s winning team are Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and Francesco and Edoardo Molinari. But Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez will all be present, while vice captains Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke are playing and bidding to follow up recent wins in Qatar and Mallorca, respectively.

Colin Montgomerie, McDowell’s captain in the Ryder Cup, will be another player teeing off on Thursday, buoyed by his joint seventh-place finish at Wentworth on Sunday.

Montgomerie travels to Wales from Walton Heath, near London, where he failed on Monday to qualify for the U.S. Open, which takes place at Congressional from June 16-19.

John Daly, making his first appearance in Wales, is also in the field for the tournament which has prize money of $3 million. He pulled out at Wentworth during the second round because of a hip injury.