Graeme McDowell aiming for hat-trick in French Open
Last year’s title defence was a career first, a third win would enter the record books
Graeme McDowell, who failed to make the cut at the US Open at Chambers Bay, is this week aiming for a third successive French Open win. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
McDowell successfully defended a title for the first time in his career 12 months ago and with another victory on Sunday would become the first player since Marcel Dallemagne, in 1938, to win Continental Europe’s oldest Open three times in succession.
The Ryder Cup star would also become just the sixth player, after Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, to claim a hat-trick of European Tour titles in the same event.
“Having a chance to win a tournament three times in a row is very special,” McDowell told a pre-tournament press conference. “I’ve always enjoyed this golf course, right back in the early days when I would come here.”
Wet and windy
McDowell, who won by four shots in 2013, overturned an eight-shot deficit in the final round last year thanks to a brilliant closing 67, despite wet and windy conditions, although he also had plenty of help from American Kevin Stadler.
Stadler’s four-shot overnight lead disappeared with a front nine of 41, but he battled back well with birdies on the 14th and 16th to pull within one of McDowell, who had moved three ahead with his fifth birdie of the day on the 16th.
With McDowell then dropping his only shot of the day on the 18th after finding heavy rough off the tee, Stadler needed to par the same hole to force a play-off, but missed from two feet, just as McDowell left the recording area to prepare for extra holes.
“The two wins were obviously very different,” said 2010 US Open champion McDowell. “You always like to win a tournament, as opposed to being given it, to a certain extent.
McDowell has recorded just one top-10 finish on the European Tour in 2015, in the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of February, and missed the cut in the US Open at Chambers Bay in his last event.
The 35-year-old admits there have been welcome distractions in his life since the birth of his first child last September, but insists his game is heading in the right direction.
“Really, I have to start the ball rolling again and start that momentum gathering,” he added. “I feel a lot happier where I am mentally now than where I was four or five months ago.”
Le Golf National will host the Ryder Cup in 2018 and the man who holed the winning putt in 2010 and claimed three points from three matches at Gleneagles – beating Jordan Spieth in the singles – believes his prowess at the venue could help to see him involved.
“If I don’t make the team off my own merit, being a little bit of a course specialist around here, certainly I will be expecting to be part of things.
“I think the fact that the Ryder Cup is coming here in 2018 legitimises how good this golf course is.”