Graeme McDowell aiming to prove he's no one-hit wonder

GRAEME McDOWELL is assured of his place in golf's record books as the first Irishman to win the US Open.

But the 31-year-old from Portrush has confessed to having a slight fear that his victory at Pebble Beach 12 months ago, by one shot over Frenchman Gregory Havret, may turn out to be his only success in a major.

Speaking ahead of his trophy defence at Congressional, McDowell, who gained further widespread recognition when he clinched victory for Europe in the Ryder Cup four months later, claimed that he has developed a sufficiently strong mindset to withstand the pressure of expectancy.

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"I've got a huge amount of belief in myself from 2010," he said. "I am a good putter under pressure, which is a huge weapon, and I want to win more major titles. I certainly don't want to be known as a one-hit wonder.

"We always want to prove ourselves and I want to be the best player I can be. I have got maybe 15 years in the prime of my career and I've got a hell of a lot of improving to do. There are so many areas of my game that I can get much, much better at.

"I really do believe that I've got the game to win an Open and Royal St George's sets up for me. Links is in my blood and I would love to win an Open.

"But you've got to take every week as it comes, and Congressional is going to be a huge milestone for me. I'm excited to be going there and having a weight lifted off my shoulders.

"Until I come out the other end, I don't really know how it's going to make me feel. But I think I'm going to feel better myself and I'm going to be ready to get on with the rest of my career."

If anyone still questioned McDowell's ability to withstand the enormous pressure that accompanies those in contention in a major golf tournament, these doubts were removed last December.

His victory over Tiger Woods in a play-off for the Chevron World Championship was confirmation that he has both the game and the strength of character to thrive in the glare of the spotlight.

"It was certainly competitive," he said. "Tiger desperately wanted to win so it was nice to do it in his own back yard, in his event. I took a lot of pride from that and it's amazing how much notoriety I gained in the States because of it. I would say 50 per cent of people mention the US Open to me and 50 per cent mention the Chevron, or maybe even more.

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"I remember the NBC people telling me how good the ratings were that afternoon because Tiger was leading and I've gained a huge amount of kudos in the States for that one."

Regrettably, Woods is being forced to miss the US Open for the first time since making his debut in 1995 due to his ongoing knee and Achilles problems.But McDowell hopes there will be many other opportunities for him to pit himself against the former world number-one after revealing: "Looking back, the things that makes me proudest of my win at Pebble Beach is that Woods was on the leaderboard.

"I would love to go head-to-head with Tiger in a major after I beat the world's best in a special era in golf and I hope for the game's sake that he's not finished, because the fact that we are playing golf for a lot of money around the world has a lot to do with Tiger."

McDowell is adamant that he can handle being one of the world's top players after he experienced a sense of calm confidence at Pebble Beach. Yet, there have also been surreal aspects.

He added: "Winning a major actually feels a lot more normal than you think it's going to feel, but everything that goes with it is certainly not normal.

"If I was witnessing one of my friends winning the US Open, I would just be blown away by what he had just achieved. But when you're on the inside looking out, it feels different somehow.

"There's definitely a period of trying to accept what you've just achieved, and it really didn't hit me for days, maybe weeks afterwards. Even at the Open a month later I was still feeling very emotional.

"But when I read statements like: The first European in 40 years to win the US Open, the first Irishman ever to win the US Open; only the third Irishman to win a Major Championship, stuff like that really helps me grab the reality of what I did.

"But when you are on the inside looking out, it doesn't feel quite as enormous as perhaps it will be when I look back on it in 25 years' time."