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Former US Open Champion Graeme McDowell completes his Open set when he tees up in this week’s Championship at Muirfield and he rates the East Lothians links as one of the best he has ever played.
“It’s a great course here, and it completes my set of Open golf courses,” he told the assembled media just a couple of weeks after winning his third title of the season at the Alstom French Open at Paris National. “Muirfield was the only one in the rotation I had never played before, and I got the chance to come here early last week and play it in beautiful conditions. And, as everyone has seen, it’s in fantastic condition.
“It’s a fantastic golf course,” he added. “It’s right up there for me. I’d probably say Birkdale, Turnberry, Lytham and this one, in no particular order, that’s my four favourite Open courses.
“It’s strength is that it doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses. It doesn’t feel long, but, let’s be honest, when a links course is playing this firm and fast, it doesn’t have to be long. It’s well-bunkered, and I think they have done a great job with the rough this week. It’s nicely graded. It’s thick in the areas it should be thick, but it gives you half a chance to get club on ball in areas where you deserve a chance.
“It’s got really nice balance. I think it’s very fair. I think bad shots get punished and good golf gets rewarded. I like it a lot.”
The 33 year-old from Portrush, Northern Ireland, ended a 40-year wait for a European winner when he won the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach. He believes his chances of claiming a second Major title are boosted by this week’s draw which sees him paired for the first two rounds with Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen.
“I have played enough golf with Tiger to know what to expect on Thursday and Friday,” he said. “He’s always a great guy to play with, very complimentary. He’s the best player in the world and maybe the best player ever, so he’s the sort of guy you want to play with, especially on a week like this.
“I think this (course) will appeal to the tactical side of his game. I think back to Hoylake in 2006 and it was maybe as firm and fast as this one. He certainly dismantled the course that week so we’ll be watching with interest his game plan Thursday and Friday. He’s the kind of guy if you can finish one shot ahead of this week you might not be that far away.
“Louis is one of my very good friends,” McDowell added. “I tweeted earlier this week that the swings of Tiger and Louis are probably two of my favourite swings in the world. So it’s never bad to play beside two guys with the rhythm and golf swings they have.
“I’ll be very excited about that pairing, and the obvious natural intensity that brings, and I’ll be using that to my advantage.”