BETHESDA, Md. -- He said it's like a weight has been removed from his shoulders.
Not to mention what it's done for the reduction of weight in his luggage on road trips.
After making several trips abroad with Graeme McDowell over the past 12 months, the Northern Irishman two weeks ago had to return the championship triophy he won for claiming the U.S. Open last summer.
His tenure as the national champ ended this week, and in a way, it was marked by a sigh of relief. No offense, but McDowell said he's spent months talking about his 2010 season, possibly to the detriment of his current campaign.
The metal case has been returned to the host USGA. McDowell is now looking forward to adding more major-championship chrome.
McDowell, who has had an unusual spring, to say the least, shot a 1-under 70 in the first round at Congressional Country Club on Thursday and reeled off 12 straight pars in one stretch.
After a winless and spotty spring that has included three scores of 79 or higher on two tours, his lone bogey Thursday came on the first hole.
"I'm pretty happy, very happy," McDowell said. "I drove the ball beautifully. You have to play from the fairway to have a chance."
For sure. A guy can't point toward the future if he can't see the road ahead.
"I have really enjoyed the past 12 months," he said. "But we do a lot of talking about the past in this game. I am looking forward to the weekend and what the future might hold."
Weekends have been spotty of late. He blew up in the third round of his title defense at the Wales Open last month, and skied to a 79 after claiming the 54-hole lead at the Players Championship.
After making a bogey on his opening hole, he snapped to attention, however.
"Sometimes a bogey can get your attention, slap you in the face early in the morning," he said. "I parred this place to death on the back nine."
With 54 more holes of that, he might be holding that same trophy overhead again on Sunday.