Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, winner of the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, practices at the California course ahead of the 2019 edition of the championship

Pebble Beach (United States) (AFP) - Graeme McDowell returns to the scene of his biggest victory as the US Open tees off at Pebble Beach this week basking in the certainty that next month he’ll tee it up in the Open Championship at Portrush.

McDowell knew he’d be coming back to Pebble, where he won the 2010 US Open.

But it wasn’t until Sunday, when he drained a 30-foot putt at the 72nd hole of the Canadian Open, that he secured his berth in the Open Championship, which is being held at his home course in Northern Ireland.

That means he won’t be teeing it up in a British Open qualifier in Scotland next week, but can relax and enjoy his return to Pebble Beach.

“As these weeks started to crunch on and I hadn’t got the job done, the pressure was going to build,” McDowell said Tuesday. “I certainly didn’t want to be in Scotland, Last Chance Saloon, going: This is it.”

McDowell will tee off on Thursday alongside five-time major winner Phil Mickelson and another former US Open champion, Dustin Johnson.

“I think four or five months ago, if you’d have told me you’re on the first tee with Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson this week at the US Open, where my game was or where my confidence level was, I would have been very intimidated, no doubt about it,” said McDowell, who in March ended a near four-year title drought with a victory in the US PGA Tour’s Puntacana Resort Championship.

He had arrived at the event in the Dominican Republic, played opposite the WGC Match Play Championship, ranked 257th in the world and has now climbed to 101st.

“Confidence is one of these very fragile things, you know, it certainly goes away a lot quicker than it comes back,” he said. “It’s certainly been a slower process than I imagined getting the confidence back. It is coming.

“And I come into this week feeling very good about my game, looking forward to the challenge of teeing it up with two great players on Thursday and Friday, and trying to dissect this golf course and get myself in position to hopefully be able to compete this weekend.”

McDowell noted that he entered 2019 with “very simple goals” of trying to lock up his future PGA Tour playing credentials and qualify for the Open at Portrush.

“I achieved both of those,” he said. “Now I can start kicking on and looking ahead to get myself back in the top 100, back in the top 50 in the world.

“And I believe I’m playing well enough to do that.”