Graeme McDowell Makes It Home, but Just Barely

If it got here right down to it, the man from Portrush was once ready to take his quest to what he known as the remaining likelihood saloon.

Buried amid the checklist of hopefuls signed up for the British Open ultimate qualifying — a 36-hole Tuesday at St. Annes Outdated Hyperlinks in England — in short gave the impression the title of Graeme McDowell.

“I used to be beginning to make the ones plans just a little bit — actually, am I actually doing this?” McDowell, the previous United States Open winner, recalled remaining month. “O.Okay., I assume we’re.”

Of all of the years to lose an automated slot within the British Open, the timing may just now not had been worse. With golfing’s oldest main championship returning to McDowell’s Northern Eire place of birth for the primary time in 68 years, he was once clawing to get in.

Thankfully for McDowell, it by no means got here right down to his remaining likelihood, which might had been the Scottish Open if St. Annes had now not labored out. He discovered an access by means of Canada, grabbing one in every of 3 berths during the RBC Canadian Open by means of creating a 30-foot par putt at the ultimate gap in June.

Power got rid of.

“It could had been extremely bittersweet to not had been on the Open Championship,” mentioned McDowell, 39, who realized the sport at Royal Portrush in conjunction with the neighboring Rathmore Golfing Membership. His last 68 that day was once excellent for a percentage of 8th.

Rory McIlroy, the Canadian Open champion after taking pictures a 61 at the ultimate day, was once satisfied for his countryman’s accomplishment.

“It could’ve been this type of disgrace if the Open involves Portrush and the place of birth boy couldn’t play,” McIlroy mentioned. “I comprehend it’s one thing he’s sought after for some time. Clearly, it’ll be nice to have him within the box at Portrush.”

[Learn extra on how the British Open in spite of everything returned to Royal Portrush after nearly 70 years.]

For just about a decade, McIlroy, McDowell and Darren Clarke were pushing to deliver the Open again to their native land. Royal Portrush were host for the 1951 version, however the match had now not returned.

Their efforts have been rewarded 4 years in the past when it was once introduced that the 2019 Open can be performed at Royal Portrush. However because the date approached, McDowell nonetheless had now not certified.

Clarke and McIlroy have assured berths till age 60 as previous Open champions; Clarke gained in 2011 and McIlroy in 2014. And for years, McDowell’s international rating was once excellent sufficient to earn an automated position within the lineup.

McDowell reached as prime as 6th on the finish of 2010, when he gained the U.S. Open at Pebble Seashore and had 3 different victories.

He gained 5 extra occasions via 2014, just about including a 2d U.S. Open crown in 2012 and tying for 5th on the British Open a month later. He stayed entrenched a few of the best 25 into 2015. Even then, he gained the OHL Vintage in Mexico overdue that yr.

Adjustments off the direction have been starting to have an have an effect on. McDowell constructed a house in Florida and married Kristin Stape in 2013. Youngsters adopted, and he entered the eating place trade.

He fell out of the highest 100 in 2017 and completed remaining yr at 238.

“Golfing is a fickle sport,” McDowell mentioned. “I took my eye off the ball — it felt like for a 2d — and 100 25-year-old children got here working by means of me.”

Beginning this season, McDowell’s PGA Excursion standing was once even in query. After completing out of doors the highest 150 in remaining yr’s FedExCup standings, his access standing fell.

“I’ve needed to ask myself some beautiful exhausting questions the remaining couple of years,” McDowell mentioned. “Fortunately, I’ve come to the belief that if it was once all long past, I’d leave out it. So you understand what, let’s attempt to experience it whilst it’s right here. It’s a chance.”

Alternative got here on the Corales Puntacana Hotel & Membership Championship, a secondary tournament for the ones now not eligible for a International Golfing Championships prevent the similar week. Again-to-back 64s gave McDowell the lead heading to the overall day, and he gained by means of a shot.

The victory restored McDowell to a complete PGA Excursion card, and he may just then center of attention on attending to Royal Portrush.

“I felt the tale snowballing,” McDowell mentioned. “I felt like each and every match that I went to, other people have been reminding me that I wasn’t in Portrush. ‘Hope to peer you at Portrush,’ ‘Hope you get in.’ Yeah, I do know. I’m hoping I do, too.”

The Canadian Open is a part of the Open Qualifying Collection, tournaments during which British Open berths are made to be had to best finishers now not already certified. Failing that, McDowell was once headed to the qualifier at St. Annes.

If that didn’t paintings, 3 extra berths have been dangling on the Scottish Open.

“I unquestionably didn’t need to be in Scotland, remaining likelihood saloon, going, ‘That is it,’” he mentioned. “However that was once an actual chance.”

Rounds of 65 and 67 put McDowell in competition in Canada, regardless that a third-round 70 slowed his momentum. Starting the overall day, 4 golfers forward of McDowell or tied with him have been additionally competing for the 3 slots for Royal Portrush.

Issues have been nonetheless now not settled as he headed to the overall gap, the place he drove within the left tough and needed to lay up. His 0.33 shot stopped simply wanting the perimeter.

“The putt was once now not makable, no,” McDowell recalled. “It had 12 ft of wreck in it. It was once a ridiculously difficult putt to make. I simply fancied it — noticed it, preferred how it seemed.

“And once I noticed it move in, it was once an enormous reduction.”

McDowell tied for 16th on the U.S. Open after which headed for Royal Portrush. Regardless that he faces a struggle towards such competitors as McIlroy and the sector No. 1 Brooks Koepka, he feels the boldness returning.

“To have the Open price tag punched now,” he mentioned, “provides me that little little bit of respiring room to with a bit of luck center of attention on my sport and be aggressive. I think like I’m enjoying smartly.”

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