Graeme McDowell would love to play golf with former versions of himself as he looks to find the missing piece of the jigsaw in the £5.4million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart.
McDowell, who was born just a few miles away in Portrush and is staying in the house he bought for his parents after his first European Tour win in 2002, has yet to record a top-10 finish this season.
The 37-year-old is on the verge of dropping out of the world’s top 100 for the first time since January 2008 and has yet to qualify for the Open Championship, but believes he is playing much better than such facts suggest.
“I always wish I could go back and play with a former version of myself just to see what I was like,” said the 2010 US Open champion, who also holed the winning putt in the Ryder Cup that year.
“I’d love a fourball with myself in 2010 and myself in 2000 when I came back from the States and had the summer that I did (winning three major amateur titles) because I feel like I’m a better player sitting here than I was in 2010, but the results would argue otherwise.
“I feel like I’m smarter and I know about the sport. Maybe that’s the problem. I think knowing too much about something can be dangerous. Certainly in the game of golf, knowledge can be a little scary, because you can’t un-know things; the scar tissue builds up. It’s an interesting game from that point of view.
“I’d love to go back and see what it was all about, when I was at my best and carefree, and certainly in 2010 things became awfully easy. I just ripped it down the middle, hit it on and knocked the putt in and just kept doing that month after month.
“There’s obviously something different. Maybe I care a bit too much. Who knows? It would be interesting. There’s no way we could do it but it would be fun to get that game set up.”
McDowell admits fun was in short supply as he slid down the world rankings after successfully defending his French Open title in 2014, the former world number four dropping to 82nd before winning the OHL Classic in November 2015.
“I think I was doubting myself a couple years ago, doubting that perhaps that I didn’t have what it took any more to get back to where I wanted to be,” McDowell added.
“I feel like the last 12 months, it’s been much, much better. There’s been less thoughts of ‘What if?’ as opposed to just getting my head down, getting back to what I always did, which was work hard, prepare well.
“I feel like I’ve ignored the kind of negativity in my own mind just by trying to work harder again, get back to the old things that I always used to do well.
“The frustrations this year have come from good places, rather than deep, dark places of (wondering) what if I never play well again. The lack of confidence and belief is really just a result of not gaining any momentum.
“I feel like when I’ve played well, I’ve kind of thrown a bad back nine in on the weekend and finished 15th. When I’ve played, it’s just been a lot of 15ths and 20ths and 25ths and 30ths this year, which you don’t really get a lot of love out of.”