NEWPORT, Wales (AP) — 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 American Hunter Mahan with a famous putt at the 16th.
The win in the Wales Open and follow-up major breakthrough at Pebble Beach vaulted McDowell onto the European team.
However, the 31-year-old Northern Irishman is without a win this year and looking for Celtic Manor to turn his season around.
“This time last year, I had achieved nothing and then the next six or eight months was like something I had never imagined,” McDowell said. “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.
“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 Nicklaus’ Memorial tournament in Ohio following his playoff win over Lee Westwood in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Ryder Cup teammate Rory McIlroy also is playing at the Memorial.
Colin Montgomerie, McDowell’s captain in the Ryder Cup, will be teeing off Thursday at Celtic Manor, buoyed by his 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 Washington’s Congressional course from June 16-19.
John Daly, making his first appearance in Wales, is also in the field. He pulled out at Wentworth during the second round because of a hip injury.