The Washington Times - June 14, 2011, 03:35PM

A year ago Graeme McDowell joined the ranks of U.S. Open winners by capturing the tournament at Pebble Beach. But don’t look at him as the defending champ.

“I feel like … defending titles is a strange psyche because, I mean, I’ve got nothing to defend this week,” he said. “I’m level par Thursday morning the same as everyone else.  I’m just one of the guys trying to win it back.”

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Win it back because McDowell said Tuesday he already surrendered the trophy he lifted June 20, 2010, and won’t get any special treatment when he tees off at 7:55 Thursday morning with British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and amateur champ Peter Uihlein.

That even-part victory at Pebble Beach last year was undoubtedly the peak of McDowell’s career, leading to the question of whether 2011 – or any year – can top 2010 for him.

“I probably can’t top the way it felt to win my first major championship,” he said. “I probably can’t top that feeling, but I can have a similar competitive year.”

Consistency will be the name of the game for McDowell, who has struggled so far this year. But he said he wouldn’t have done anything differently since his biggest triumph.

“I have no regrets about the last 12 months,” McDowell said. “I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”

McDowell is one of only eight past champions in the field and only five players have won this tournament in back-to-back years. Yet, he insists he’s not feeling any extra pressure at Congressional.

“It’s bizarre because if anything I feel like the glare is off me this week. I feel like I’ve done it,” he said. “I’m ready to sort of get on with the rest of my career now.”