Graeme McDowell hope to finally make a mark in his home Irish Open
Ulsterman has also met with fellow Irish pros to try and strengthen the tournament
Graeme McDowell signs autographs for fans during the Pro-Am at Carton House. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Stress? What stress? Graeme McDowell, his Ulster accent infiltrated by more than a hint of Alabama, rolls out a line that has himself as the butt of the quip. “There’s no doubt about it, the Irish Open is on my golfing bucket list. I’d love to add it to my CV. To win your national open is a very special win in a player’s heart, even though Rory (McIlroy) jokes that’s I’ve already won my national open at the US Open.”
The fact of the matter is that McDowell – a winner of the US Open in 2010, a two-time winner on tour this season and currently ninth in the official world rankings – has flattered only to deceive in previous Irish Opens.
In 11 previous appearances, he has yet to fashion a top-10 finish, never mind contending when the heart beats a little bit faster down the home stretch on a Sunday afternoon.
With wins in the Heritage Classic at Hilton Head on the US Tour and the Volvo World Matchplay in Bulgaria on the European Tour to show that he has twice peaked when it mattered this season, McDowell has a sense of conviction about him. “My record doesn’t really read very well. I’d love to change that. I’d love to compete and feel the atmosphere of the crowd driving an Irish player home. I would love that to be me,” he said.
McDowell has experienced some rocky periods of late, his missed cut at the BMW PGA in Wentworth followed by his failure to survive into the weekend of the US Open. It was the second Major this year that he missed the cut. It hurt. “I felt I over-prepared for Augusta. I was physically not 100 per cent come Thursday, fatigued. Merion, I didn’t get my preparation right either. I was under-golfed going into (the US Open). I took two and a half weeks off, so was competitively not sharp enough going into Merion,” he admitted.
“Merion has done nothing but motivate me and make me more hungry for contention and being in the mix come the weekend. I’m ready to go this week and I’m looking forward to it,” said McDowell, who believes the Irish Open should be one of those tournaments that provide the bedrock of the European Tour.
McDowell revealed that he sat down with up to 15 of his fellow-pros at the recent BMW PGA in Wentworth to discuss ways of strengthening their home tour. The debate felt that there should be a series of swings at key points of the season. In the desert in the early part of the year. Around Wentworth. Around the British Open. Around the Dunhill Links.
“The Irish Open, to me, is one of the events that will slot into those parts of the schedule. Why couldn’t we play a phenomenal links golf course the week before or the week after the British Open here in Ireland for four or five million euro? That would be a class opportunity and attract a world class field,” said McDowell in making his case.
For now, the Irish Open is what it is: a cherished title nonetheless. And one that McDowell would love to add to his CV. No stress!