Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Graeme McDowell keen to make up for Irish Open no-show

Graeme McDowell is confident he will hit back

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell will avoid reaching for the panic button when he competes in this week's Alstom Open de France.

McDowell's missed cut in last week's Irish Open was the fifth in his last six strokeplay events and left him spending the weekend at Carton House on the practice range, alongside compatriot Rory McIlroy, looking for some form ahead of the upcoming Open Championship.

The 33-year-old also made early exits from the Masters, US Open and Players Championship this season, but can somehow boast two wins alongside all the missed cuts, claiming the RBC Heritage title the week after Augusta and the Volvo World Match Play crown in Bulgaria.

"Obviously that Volvo World Match Play offsets some really average golf for me I suppose," McDowell admitted.

"I feel like I went into the US Open a bit under golfed to be honest with you; (with) a few missed cuts here and there and playing a slightly reduced schedule this year.

"I really just haven't had enough course time the last couple of months and that was highlighted at the US Open – he shot rounds of 76 and 77 at Merion – and it was highlighted a little bit last week in Ireland, missing by one there.

"I thought I had snuck in for the weekend and I could have done with a couple of extra rounds of golf under my belt, but used the weekend constructively, hit a lot of balls.

"I feel like, thankfully, I've got a couple of victories under the belt this year to offset maybe the panic button being hit. It is a good thing to be coming into this run of golf fresh I suppose, I've got a lot of golf coming up here the next few months.

"The game's not in terrible shape to be honest with you. It's been a fine line here and there. The motivation's there and I'm feeling hungry and ready to go this summer.

"I've worked very hard the last 10 days or so and I've probably hit as many balls in the last 10 days as I have in a couple of months really. I could do with a weekend here where I compete and play four rounds, get the old juices flowing."

Another Irishman with an optimistic outlook is Lurgan man Gareth Shaw (pictured) who qualified for the French Open with an impressive tied fifth finish at the Irish Open.

Shaw's impressive form earned him by far the biggest cheque of his career – €61,920 (£52,687).

The 27-year-old has a full card on the European Challenge Tour and has already been on the road for six weeks with Paris his seventh consecutive tournament in what has turned out to be a very busy period.

"I don't feel tired," said Shaw. "I had planned on taking the next two weeks off but it's the French Open.

"The guys (on tour) say it's almost a major, a massive event. I've got to keep going, keep riding the wave. The week at home went out the window but I can't be too disappointed, it's another great opportunity."

Shaw travelled on the same flight from Belfast to Paris with Michael Hoey, tournament ambassador for the Northern Ireland Open Challenge presented by Clannah and Xjet, which takes place from August 29 to September 1 at Galgorm, the Ballymena venue Shaw represents.

"It's great to see Gareth do well and take his opportunity," said Hoey.

"He took full advantage after Simon Thornton's St Omer win got him a spot in the Irish Open and now he gets another big chance in France."