All or nothing for McDowell
If current form is anything to go by, Graeme McDowell will either miss the cut or win his second major title in next week's Open Championship at Muirfield.
Usually a highly consistent player, McDowell admits 2013 has been a "funny year" that has brought either a missed cut or a victory in each of his last eight events, the most recent coming in the Alstom Open de France on Sunday.
McDowell carded a closing 67 at Le Golf National to finish nine under par, four clear of South Africa's Richard Sterne, who had been only one behind until bogeys at the 16th and 17th. Sterne eventually did well to par the 18th for a final round of 71 to make sure of outright second, with 2007 winner Graeme Storm and Spain's Eduardo de la Riva a shot behind.
McDowell missed the cut in last week's Irish Open but reaped the rewards of staying on at Carton House over the weekend to work on his game, the first prize of 500,000 euro (£431,000) taking him less than 30,000 euro (£26,000) behind US Open champion Justin Rose at the top of the European Tour's Race to Dubai.
"It's very special after the last couple of months," McDowell admitted. "It's been a bit of a battle. It's been a funny year. My game has not felt far away most weeks but I have missed a lot more cuts than normal and missing cuts hurts.
"It certainly motivated me a lot the last few weeks. The US Open was a tough one to take and missing the cut in Ireland last week; it made me more hungry to want to be in positions like I was this afternoon."
The 33-year-old began the day tied with Sterne and went out in 34 with three birdies and one bogey, but found himself one behind after Sterne reached the turn in 33.
A birdie on the 10th got McDowell back on level terms and he reclaimed the lead when Sterne dropped his first shot of the day on the 12th after driving into heavy rough. Luck certainly appeared to be on McDowell's side as he pulled his tee shot on the 16th but saw the ball take a fortunate bounce away from the heavy rough and kick 90 degrees right.
That left him with a relatively simple up and down, but he needed more good fortune after pulling his par putt and the sheepish grin after it somehow found the left edge of the hole told its own story.
Sterne had called for a "G-Mac bounce" after also pulling his tee shot but was not so fortunate and a bogey four gave McDowell a two-shot lead with two to play, the Northern Irishman then making certain of victory with a superb birdie on the 17th.