Irish lick their Muirfield wounds
McDowell straight back into action at this week’s US Tour stop at the Canadian Open
Phil Mickelson of the US smiles as he holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open golf championship at Muirfield i. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
The expectation these days is an Irish golfer will automatically contend in a Major, and with good reason – perhaps – given the unprecedented success within the last six years when seven such titles, the most prized in the game, were garnered on famed courses.
Such anticipation, though, should be offset against the weight of history and, also, the travails of others.
For instance, Scotland – the home of the game – is without a Major champion since Paul Lawrie’s British Open win at Carnoustie in 1999 and England, one of the powerhouses, had to wait until Justin Rose’s US Open win at Merion last month to end a drought which stretched all the way back to Nick Faldo’s Masters triumph of 1996.
And, yet, it is also indicative of the quality of Irish golfers that nobody sets the goals as high as the players themselves.
And, so, it was with varying levels of disappointment that each of the Irish players departed Muirfield: Graeme McDowell, heading into the most hectic part of his season, resumes tournament play immediately at this week’s US Tour stop at the Canadian Open, whilst Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy will next meet up with McDowell at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron next week before moving on to the US PGA at Oak Hill.
Pádraig Harrington, meanwhile, will tune-up for the PGA by reappearing on tour at next week’s Reno-Tahoe Open, the alternative event on the US Tour.
Of them all, the schedule that McDowell has set out for himself is the most demanding.
“It’s a busy old summer, you know. It’s the result of playing both turfs, (and) that’s my own creation. I don’t have to play the PGA Tour, if I don’t want to. I guess I don’t have to play the European Tour, if I don’t want to. But I want to play Ryder Cups and I want to play on the PGA Tour and the FedEx Cup playoffs. I want to play the best events globally. It’s a lot of golf,” he said.
What such a busy itinerary offers is the old mantra that there is always another tournament, and – with the season’s final Major at Oak Hill coming up faster than usual – it gives McDowell a chance to bounce back from a disappointing weekend in Muirfield.
“I’ve got to pace myself (in Canada). It’s a corporate commitment. I’m an RBC ambassador and I’m playing there. It’s not ideal from a scheduling point of view but it gets me over to that side of the pond. I’ll be preparing well for the USPGA. It’s supposed to be a great course and great event.”
McDowell will be hoping the hectic run-up to Oak Hill will enable him to improve on his performances so far in the Majors, when he has adopted a policy of not playing the previous week: the Ulsterman missed the cut in both the Masters and the US Open and, having decided not to play the Scottish Open because of what he called “scheduling suicide,” had a poor weekend in the British Open and finished tied-58th.
Lowry’s first Major of the season saw him finish tied-32nd and he left the course south of Edinburgh with renewed resolve to make the Majors an integral part of his scheduling.
“I think in two, three, four years’ time, I’ll be going into Major championships trying to compete and trying to win them,” said the Offalyman, who is also looking forward to the Bridgestone next week ahead of the US PGA.
“It’s four years now (since he made his debut in Akron) and I know my game is definitely a lot better than it was then. I am more experienced, a lot more comfortable.”
Harrington has a week off and, like last year, will use the Reno-Tahoe Open next week to finalise preparations for the PGA. The Dubliner went “backwards” – as he put it – in the FedEx Cup rankings with his performance in Muirfield and now needs some decent performances if he is to make the US Tour’s end-of-season moneyfest.