McDowell managing expectations

Being the defending champion is not always easy, but Graeme McDowell is determined to manage the expectations at the RBC Heritage.

The man from Northern Ireland came from four shots down at the start of the final day last year to tie with Webb Simpson after 72 holes, and then beat the American at the first play-off hole. It was only his second victory on the PGA Tour following his success at the 2010 US Open.

All eyes will no doubt be on the 34-year-old when the 2014 edition starts at the Sea Pines Resort on Thursday, but he knows he can’t afford to get distracted by everything that comes along with being the defending champion.

“Last year’s win was great, but it means nothing now,” he said. “Now, we have to treat it like another event, prepare how we always do, execute our game plan and hope things go well.

“I’m looking forward to getting back and managing the expectations of a defending champion this year. I’m aware of the pitfalls and don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”

McDowell and his rivals battled strong winds on the final day and he was one of only a handful of players to shoot in the 60s with his two-under 69 earning him the play-off spot, and he once again expects to be tested this year.

“The Hilton Head area has always been on my radar and I feel like I can win here,” he said.

“It’s a very nice course that tests every facet of the game, and it’s stood the test of time. I’m excited to be coming back.”

Besides McDowell, 2013 runner-up Simpson will also return while Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Luke Donald and Ernie Els have also signed up.