San Francisco: When Graeme McDowell birdied the last hole at the U.S. Open on Saturday, he instinctively raised his arms in triumph, flashed a big cheesy smile then bounded up a nearby set of stairs.

McDowell was delirious with excitement and for good reason. He had joined Jim Furyk in the lead at the U.S. Open after three rounds and the huge galleries at the Olympic Club were chanting his name.

But McDowell's animated reaction hid a darker side to the Northern Irishman that the golfing faithful did not see a few hours earlier.

While he appeared to have nerves of steel and all the confidence in the world, McDowell revealed that he had actually been racked by self-doubt and a deep fear of failure.

"I've gone through these emotions all the time," the 32-year-old told reporters. "It's basic stuff. It's basically fear, a fear of going out there and messing it all up.

"I don't fear success. I only fear failure. We all do."

McDowell, who won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach two years ago, said the doubts had started creeping into his head before he teed off on Saturday so he had a long chat with his support crew to help clear his mind.

"I was just scared of going out there and messing up," he explained.

"Just talking to my team and just realising that there's probably 71 other guys feeling the same way and 84 guys already have messed it up. It puts it in perspective a little bit."

While McDowell said he would dearly love to win a second U.S. Open on Saturday, he was adopting a philosophical approach to the tournament to help maintain his composure in the heat of competition.

"Tomorrow is not going to be the be-all and end-all for me.  Hopefully I've got a few more years in me," he said.

"If I can go out tomorrow and not put it up on a pedestal, just try to go out and do my job. If it's good enough, great.  If it's not, perhaps I'll drink a cold beer and get over it.

"I think the handicap golfer can probably relate to some of the feelings I had today and they'd be surprised that we're human beings and we have negative thoughts."


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