A re-focused Graeme McDowell will kick-start his 2017 season at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on Thursday morning as the 10-time European Tour winner looks to re-ignite a career headlined by four Ryder Cup appearances – including three wins – and an historic US Open victory in 2010.
Second in The Race to Dubai Rankings in 2010 and World Number Four in early 2011, ‘G-Mac’ has dropped to 91st in the Official World Golf Ranking so the 10-time European Tour winner is determined to regain the form that made him one of the world’s best.
McDowell, 37, is grouped with Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal and China Number One Li Haotong at Doha Golf Club, where the Florida-based Northern Irishman last competed in 2012 before reducing his travel in recent years due to family and other commitments.
“It has not been the kind of few years I expect from myself. There have been some factors outside golf which have been distracting for me – and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Having a family is something I’ve always wanted,” said McDowell, who was married in September 2013 and had a daughter in August 2014 and a son last August.
“My on-course performance has not been good enough so there have been some areas I needed to refocus on like general work ethic, goal setting and patience levels. As I look to the next few years, I’ve tried to view it as a long road back toward the top of the game. That’s where I want to be; giving myself chances to win Majors again.
“I’ve got a lot of things to work on and I’ve been rededicating myself for the last six or eight months. Mentally, I think it’s really, really important that I stay super-patient with it. It may not happen this week or next week, but if I keep doing the things I know are going to make me the best I can be, eventually it will come.”
McDowell admitted his drop in form came into sharp focus when he was unable to play his way into Europe’s Ryder Cup team last year, having made his debut in 2008 and played in winning teams in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
“Last year, I played a little better than my results showed and a little frustration showed. I was chasing too hard coming into that Ryder Cup run a few months before the team got picked, because of just wanting it a little too badly,” McDowell admitted.
“I think that certainly was a big week for me to sit at home and watch that. It was very motivating, very inspiring. When I look to France to 2018, a golf course which I love, I certainly want to be there, that’s for sure.
“My focus had come back a long time before that Ryder Cup, but I think not being on that team reinforced that I’m not doing what I want to do in the game. I'm still very, very motivated and I still want it badly enough to go out there and do whatever it takes.
“My family are 100 per cent behind me and I’m ready to get the head down for the next five years of my career and see what I can do. I haven’t really enjoyed myself much on the course the last few years, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I’ve turned a corner and I’m ready to do whatever it takes the next few years to get myself back.”
McDowell played in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters six times from 2003 and had a best finish of fourth in 2007, when he finished three strokes behind two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen.
“It’s great to be back in Doha. It’s an amazing city and it’s great to see how things have moved on the last five years from a construction point of view. The skyline continues to get busier and busier here, and obviously they’re working towards the 2022 World Cup. It's an exciting time for Doha,” McDowellsaid.
“I've always enjoyed this tournament and course. The wind can be very tough and after eight weeks off and the game being a tad rusty, this is a tough place to start the season, but my focus will get there very quickly. I’m looking forward to getting a card back in my pocket, getting out there and starting this process and this journey I'm talking about.”