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McDowell has case for defence

Graeme McDowell is determined to achieve a personal first this week as he prepares for his defence of the French Open at Le Golf National.

The former US Open champion has won nine European Tour events, all in different countries, but he has never managed to successfully defend a title.

The 34-year-old has won in Sweden, Italy, Korea, Scotland, Wales, the United States, Spain, Bulgaria and France, but he was disappointed not to add Ireland to that list last month.

McDowell went into the final round at Fota Island just two shots off the lead, but his share of sixth place was his best finish in 13 appearances in the event.

"It was really from the US Open onwards that I really felt like my game was ticking along nicely," McDowell told a pre-tournament press conference.

"I was inevitably a little bit disappointed with my performance on the weekend in Ireland, on the greens especially, but I took the positives away from the week. I hit the ball as well as I have this season tee-to-green and put myself in a position to win.

"Being the defending champion gives you a nice little buzz, a spring in your step and good memories and I'm looking forward to my pairing this week with Victor Dubuisson and the US Open Champion, Martin Kaymer, who is in some amazing form at the minute.

"I'm feeling good and ready for an exciting summer. I feel like I'm in a good space myself and looking forward to it. I had four or five nice days off last week, I've really made a sort of decision this year to pace myself for the summer.

"I felt like the last three or four years, come August, I've been pretty tired. I haven't been mentally and physically ready for the FedEx play-offs and into the early part of the autumn with the Ryder Cup.

"Even looking back to Medinah, I didn't feel like I was physically on top of my game that weekend [he won just one point from four matches], and I really didn't play as well as I'd like to.

"It's really been a conscious decision since then to try and have myself in peak condition come July, August, September."

Watch all four days of the French Open live on Sky Sports 4, coverage starts Thursday at 9.30am.