Graeme McDowell believes he is edging closer to a return to form, despite describing the past 12 months as one of the worst years of his career.
The former US Open champion won the Saudi International last February and had made an encouraging start to the PGA Tour season, bolstering his hopes of a possible Ryder Cup return, only to see his form disappear since golf’s return from the coronavirus pandemic.
McDowell has gone from being inside the world’s top 50 to dropping to world No 167 after posting just one top-20 finish over the past year, with the Northern Irishman coming into this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open off the back of three consecutive missed cuts.
“It has been certainly one of the tougher 12 months that I can remember in my career,” McDowell said. “The disappointing thing was, going into the time off, I was actually really starting to get ahead of steam up. I won in Saudi, finished well in Hawaii and played well in the first round of The Players.
“The dream of playing a Ryder Cup was starting to be very real all of a sudden, and I felt like I had a pretty good spell during my time off. Worked on the sort of physical side of my game. Worked out quite a lot. Felt pretty good and then got back on the golf course and things started going sideways.
“Kenny [Comboy, his caddie] got sick two weeks in, got Covid and took another couple weeks off after that and he couldn’t caddie for me when we came back, because he was still testing positive. Two months later, I’m missing cuts left, right and center and then you start scrambling. You start searching, looking, trying and grinding. Started working with a new coach and that went sideways very fast.
“The last couple months has been about trying to reset, reflect on where I’m at, the mistakes I’ve been making the last 12 months and realising that 25, 30 years into a golf career, I’m not really going to be changing my pattern much at this point. I need to do the things that I do. My basics need to be done better. Just do the small things better. That’s been starting to turn the corner the last five, six weeks.
“It’s just the mental side of the game that’s just not there. My confidence is low. My expectation levels are high, so really trying to adjust that. At this point, I really should be out here playing golf tournaments, enjoying myself, everything else is gravy from here.
“If I wasn’t to hit another shot here, it’s been a great run. It’s been a great career, but I’m not ready to walk away. I’ve got things that I want to achieve and it’s about kind of just refocusing on what does success look like for me now. It’s different from what it looked like 10 years ago.
“Just making sure that I do a better job and give myself the ability to go on the golf course, relax, enjoy, the old cliche, get out of my own way. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. The game is probably closer than it looks on paper. Just not really putting numbers on the board, but I don’t really feel like I’m miles away.”
Watch the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open throughout the week live n Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday from 1pm on Sky Sports Golf.