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McDowell's game finally returning to form

Graeme McDowell
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NORTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 04: Geoff Ogilvy of Australia plays a shot from the rough during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston held on September 4, 2009 in Norton, Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)  - 

After winning the 2010 U.S. Open, securing the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and beating Tiger Woods in overtime to end a dream season two years ago, Graeme McDowell got off to a hot start in 2011. With a final-round 62 at Kapalua, McDowell rallied to nearly win the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

At some point, however, the season got away from him. Maybe it was at the Players Championship, where an unfortunate bounce on the 54th hole turned into a final-round collapse. Maybe it was back at Celtic Manor in the Wales Open, where a third-round 81 crushed his chances.

Somewhere, somehow, McDowell admits he lost his confidence and replaced it with self-imposed pressure.

Most of it was me thinking badly as opposed to playing badly. I was questioning things when there was no need to, McDowell told 'The Scotsman.' To play my best golf, I need my patience level to be high and my expectation level to be low. Last year, I was exactly the opposite. My expectations were high, and my patience was low. It was a recipe for disaster.

It all changed at Atlanta Athletic Club and the PGA Championship, however, which followed a T-3 finish in the friendly confines of links golf at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

[S]omething happened at the USPGA. I removed a 100 kg barbell from my shoulders and started to get going again, he said.

It showed. McDowell ended 2011 with a T-3 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and began this season with a T-3 finish in Abu Dhabi. Were it not for a cracked driver, McDowell may well have won in Abu Dhabi. More importantly, however, he appears to have cracked his head case.