McDowell did not have his two-year contract renewed with Martin Kaymer’s Cleeks GC at the culmination of the most recent LIV campaign, where he finished 42nd in the standings after failing to record a top-10 result in 13 events.
During the inaugural LIV campaign, in which he played all eight events, the 44-year-old only managed two top-20 results and a best finish of 12th.
Speaking to LIV Golf, McDowell said: “I know what I’m still capable of. I really feel like I’ve started to play great the last few months and I’m just missing that little bit of X factor.
“I feel like the X factor’s going to come from the pressure of trying to hang with a guy like Brooks Koepka, who’s one of the best players in the world, the intensity and the mentality that he brings. I think it’s just what I need for myself to see if I can produce the golf that I know I’m still capable of.”
A former Major winner and a key part of several Ryder Cup victories for Team Europe, McDowell’s form since the beginning of 2017 has not been up to the level the Northern Irishman would have hoped for – missing around 50 per cent of all cuts on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
But the 44-year-old insists he still has what it takes to compete at the very top and believes having the carrot of a five-time Major winner in his corner will only help push him on.
Discussing the effect McDowell believes Koepka will have on his game, the former said: “Having a chance to go and chase him every day, I think that’s just what I need in my career. I need that extra motivation, I need that extra little bit of pressure.
“Kind of learn something from him, his psyche, the way he goes about things. Obviously, his Major championship record speaks for itself. I’m really excited, and I think Smash GC can have a massive year.
“I’m hoping ‘24 is going to be the comeback season for me. Compete, try and win an event or two. Like I say, perfect timing for me right now.”
Once World No.4, McDowell was the first to admit his form was not good enough in 2023 but remained “disappointed” his old team did not present a second opportunity.
But having spoken to Koepka’s long-term caddie, Ricky Elliott – a fellow Portrush man – once he knew a back-up plan would be needed, McDowell was delighted the stress of searching for a new job did not last too long.
“It’s been a difficult time the last couple of months, obviously being out of contract and looking at the rankings, doing the math and realizing there wasn’t really going to be a lot of open opportunities and open slots within LIV for me to be able to slot into,” McDowell said.
“Being able to have relationships and have respect levels from guys like Brooks was really, really important. I obviously didn’t want to put Ricky in a tough situation with Brooks and kind of be an advocate for me coming to Smash next year, but certainly there were plenty of whispers in the ears over a few beers, trying to kind of say, Hey, listen, how cool would this be? Can you put a good word in for me with the chief?
“I was disappointed that the Cleeks wanted to move in a different direction, didn’t want to pick me up. But I guess sometimes things happen for a reason. I couldn’t be happier than I am right now.”