McDowell relishing Masters spotlight

RYDER CUP star Graeme McDowell insists he’s far from daunted at the prospect of playing the opening two rounds of his Masters campaign alongside Tiger Woods.

McDowell, the US Open champion, played with Woods in the third round two years ago and was outscored 70-73, but he has come a long way since then, while Woods has fallen to seventh in the world rankings.

Indeed, it was only last December that the American lost a four-shot lead on the final day of the Chevron World Challenge in California and was beaten in a play-off by McDowell.

“I always say to Kenny, my caddie, when we are out there playing with him – at Doral (last month) or Chevron or Shanghai last year – that this is good practice for when it happens in the big shows,” said McDowell, who skipped last night’s traditional par three warm-up event in favour of watching his beloved Manchester United take on Chelsea in the Champions League.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than The Masters. I feel like I’ve played with him enough now to where it’s pretty normal once you get used to the whole buzz that surrounds him, especially inside the ropes.

“I’ve got to go and play my own game and let him play his game. I would have been intimidated a couple of years ago, but nowadays it’s reasonably normal. I was expecting to get a draw somewhere along those lines this week.”

This is McDowell’s fourth Masters and only once has he made the cut, but he added: “I’m very keen to have a great week. I’ve dreamt of putting the green jacket on my back and I’m definitely very driven to do the job.

“The more often I come to this place I feel like my awareness and my knowledge of this golf course continues to increase.”

AMEN CORNER | STATS, CONDTIONS AND BANTER

THE COURSE
In 2001, the course measured 6,925 yards from the Masters tees. It was lengthened to 7,270 yards for 2002, and again in 2006 and now plays 7,435 yards. There have been no major amendments this year but a few subtle changes including the flattening of some greens to create new pin positions.

WHO’S NO1?
Martin Kaymer might be the current world No1, but victory for any of his closest rivals at Augusta could see him overhauled by Sunday night. Britain’s Luke Donald and Lee Westwood along with US Open champion Graeme McDowell are in range of the German, as are American duo Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Poulter’s always right isn’t he?” – Tiger Woods responds to the Englishman’s claim that he won’t finish in the top five this week.