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Graeme McDowell set for Ballantines title defence

Defending champion Graeme McDowell, whose win in the 2008 Ballantine's Championship kick-started his season, said Wednesday he was expecting trickier conditions this year.

The Northern Ireland player said the victory had been a "big jumping block" for a successful season, during which he also won the Barclays Scottish Open and made his Ryder Cup debut.

McDowell beat India's Jeev Milkha Singh at the third playoff hole last March after the pair hit 24-under 264s at the inaugural event on the South Korean holiday island of Jeju.

But the 29-year-old said the course would be more challenging this time around, with more rough and windier conditions.

"I remember the golf course being a little easier than the one I've been practising on the last couple of days," he said ahead of the start of the event Thursday.

"Obviously (there is) a bit more rough here on the golf course this year. The wind is blowing a little stronger," he said. "So I think scoring's going to be a lot more difficult."

McDowell, 47 in the world rankings, said his victory here had been crucial.

"It was my first tournament victory in four years so it was huge for a number of reasons. It really got my season off and running. It being a Ryder Cup year, I had great aspirations to make the Ryder Cup team and there's no feeling quite like winning.

"The confidence you gain from winning is second to none and obviously helps drive you on. It helped drive me on to having a great rest of the season."

McDowell continued his success at the Pinx Golf Club when his team won the pro-am tournament Wednesday.

"The golf course fits my eye. I said that from the first second I saw it last year. It really does. It sets up nicely for me. I like the greens. I putted well again this morning. I just seem to read these things pretty well."


April 23, 2009

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