Graeme McDowell admits this week’s US Open will be a brutal test for the world’s best golfers as they descend on the formidable Blue Course at Congressional for the first time since 1997.
The Northern Irishman believes his lack of fire power off the tee could prove detrimental to the defence of his title that he won so emphatically at Pebble Beach 12 months ago.
“If the course is set up the way I saw it six weeks ago, then I am not sure I can win around it,” said McDowell, who travelled to Washington last month to get his first taste of the course.
“It was pretty brutal from off the back tees, though it was cold and the course was particularly soft.
“There were a couple of par 4s that I could not even reach in regulation, but hopefully that will change come Thursday.”
But following the recent hot weather in Bethesda, the rough is likely to be less punishing than it was for McDowell in his earlier practice rounds – and he can also take heart from the fact he is ranked 11th in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour this season.
“I guess we’ll have to see what happens with the weather this week, but I am certainly no less equipped that’s for sure,” added McDowell.
“I’ve definitely got the confidence now and the belief that if I can get myself in position at the weekend, then I know I can go on and do it.”
Lee Westwood will start as one of the favourites this week, alongside World No.1 Luke Donald, as the English duo look to silence their critics who have derided them for lacking the killer instinct when it comes to the majors.
Westwood returns to the scene of his US Open debut in tremendous form, off the back of two wins in Asia, a second at the BMW PGA and 11th at the St Jude Classic last week.
“It should be a great week but an extremely tough one,” said the World No.2 Westwood, who narrowly missed out on the playoff with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate in the 2008 US Open.
“I think it’s probably the toughest test of all four majors, you just have to be very patient and try not to give shots away unnecessarily.
“But I am driving the ball great, long and straight, and my irons are fairly crisp, which all bodes well for this week.”
The old par-3 18th has been re-directed and now plays as the 10th, leaving the long par-4 17th as the closing hole - with water and traps on the right, it is sure to set up a mouthwatering climax to the second major of the season.
Remember, you can win the chance to caddie for McDowell in a competition exclusive to Golfmagic.
Congressional, Bethesda, Maryland
Thursday June 16 to Sunday June 19
Par-71; 7,574 yards
$7.5 million (winner: $1,350,000)
Graeme McDowell (Par)
Most victories: 4 (Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones)
Most consecutive victories: 3 (Willie Anderson from 1903 to 1905)
Lowest score for 72 holes: 272 (Jack Nicklaus in 1980; Lee Janzen in 1993; Tiger Woods in 2000; Jim Furyk in 2003)
Most strokes under par for 72 holes: 12-under (Tiger Woods in 2000)
Largest margin of victory: 15 strokes (Tiger Woods in 2000)
Lowest score for 18 holes: 63 (Johnny Miller in 1973; Jack Nicklaus in 1980; Tom Weiskopf in 1980; Vijay Singh in 2003)
Oldest champion: Hale Irwin (45 years, 15 days) in 1990
Youngest champion: John McDermott (19 years, 315 days) in 1911
Oldest player to make the cut: Sam Snead (61 years) in 1973
Most consecutive Opens started: 44 (Jack Nicklaus from 1957 to 2000)
Did you know?
The U.S. Open is the only major which does not go immediately go into a playoff if two or more players are tied at the end of the four rounds. Instead, the players compete in 18 holes of stroke play on Monday - it has only happened three times since it began in 1895; the last was in 2008.
Thursday: Sky Sports 2 from 3pm
Friday: Sky Sports 2 from 3pm
Saturday: Sky Sports 2 from 7pm
Sunday: Sky Sports 2 from 6.30pm