Reuters - Wed, 07 Jul 16:43:00 2010
US Open champion Graeme McDowell is expecting a major challenge from his fellow-Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy in next week's Open.
McDowell plays his first event since triumphing at Pebble Beach in this week's Scottish Open.
On Wednesday, the day before playing Loch Lomond where he won two years ago, McDowell explained why his friend and expected Ryder Cup partner is now keener than ever to succeed at St Andrews.
"I think there is a reaction to me winning (the US Open)," McDowell said. "Take Rory as an example. I've never seen a guy so excited about next week.
"I played with him the weekend after I won at Pebble Beach at Royal County Down and he told me he'd pulled out this week. He wants to be ready for next week.
"Rory now believes he can win Majors. I inspired him. I think it has a positive effect."
In turn, McDowell said it had been Irishman Padraig Harrington who had inspired him to win his first Major.
"When you see a guy work as hard as he has to go and win three Major championships, it gives everyone belief," said McDowell. "It just goes to show what a strong mind and a great short game can achieve."
While McDowell said he had no expectations this week, he is optimistic about playing well over the Old Course next week.
However, McDowell, who practised at the Old Course on Saturday, is less than happy about the famous 17th, the Road Hole, which has been lengthened.
"I thought it was a fantastic hole," said McDowell. "Now I'm going to be playing it conservatively.
"I don't see how I'm ever going to aim at that green with a four-iron. I think I'll be laying up to the front of the green
"That's unfortunate because you want drama. The 17th has given us great drama over the years. It's not really dramatic (now). It nearly has the opposite effect."
Tom Watson lost the 1984 Open by getting the Road Hole approach wrong. Japanese Tommy Nakajima found the 17th green in 1978 but then lost his only chance at a major title by putting into the infamous bunker, taking four attempts to get out.