Graeme McDowell is moving up through the gears as he heads into the weekend of The 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes looking to mount another Major challenge.
McDowell, winner of the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, shot a one under par 69 to move to four under par 136 and into a share of fourth place, six adrift of Brandt Snedeker, as he looks to keep the Claret Jug in Northern Ireland after Darren Clarke’s success last year.
“Haven't quite gotten into fifth gear,” he said. “I'm probably still in third gear, fourth gear. I’m just gearing up.”
Last month McDowell finished joint runner-up in the US Open at Olympic Club after coming within a whisker of a play-off with Webb Simpson, and McDowell is once again rising to the big occasion, unfazed by the size of the Snedeker’s lead.
“Yeah, I'm six behind Brandt Snedeker, but it's just one guy,” said McDowell. “It's not like it's bunched up in front of me. I've just got to go out and keep doing what I'm doing. I'm doing a lot of things well, but I can do them better.”
McDowell is sitting nicely in the chasing pack with only Snedeker, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods ahead of him after plotting his way round Royal Lytham & St Annes with three birdies and just the two dropped shots on a course playing exceptionally tough even in the benign conditions on the Lancashire coast.
“You just have to play the waiting game a little bit when the golf courses are this hard,” he said. “I know we've got some wind forecast on Sunday. So if you can be within four or five shots going into Sunday, that's right where you need to be, because this is going to be a tough test come the weekend. It's been very benign the last couple of days, but still, it's a tough test of golf out there.”
And having already won one Major and holed the winning putt in the Ryder Cup, McDowell knows what it takes to perform under the greatest of pressure and has a habit of raising his game as the intensity rises. His performance at Olympic Club last month further reinforced his belief.
“I control my emotions well under pressure,” he said. “I do the right things when I'm under pressure.
“I don't always win. No one always wins. But Olympic reinforced to me that I can control myself when I'm in the mix. But still, you know, I've still got to go out there and do it this weekend.”
Now the stage is set, the cast is gathering and a fascinating two days of golf await.
“The last few groups of a Major Championship, playing with guys like Tiger Woods, that's right where you want to be”.