Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

McDowell must make case for defence

Graeme McDowell is out to retain his title in Paris

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell will have to create a piece of personal history to retain the Alstom Open de France title at Le Golf National in Paris this week.

McDowell has never successfully defended a tournament and all nine of his European Tour victories have come in different countries, namely Sweden, Italy, Korea, Scotland, Wales, the United States, Spain, Bulgaria and France.

The 34-year-old was disappointed not to add Ireland to that list after going into the final round of the Irish Open last month just two shots off the lead, although his share of sixth place was his best finish in 13 appearances in the event.

"It was really from the US Open onwards that I really felt like my game was ticking along nicely," McDowell told a pre-tournament press conference at Le Golf National, site of the 2018 Ryder Cup.

"I was inevitably a little bit disappointed with my performance on the weekend (in Ireland), on the greens especially, but I took the positives away from the week. I hit the ball as well as I have this season tee-to-green and put myself in a position to win.

"Being the defending champion gives you a nice little buzz, a spring in your step and good memories and I'm looking forward to my pairing this week with Victor (Dubuisson) and the US Open Champion Martin Kaymer, who is in some amazing form at the minute.

"I'm feeling good and ready for an exciting summer. I feel like I'm in a good space myself and looking forward to it. I had four or five nice days off last week, I've really made a sort of decision this year to pace myself for the summer.

"I felt like the last three or four years, come August, I've been pretty tired. I haven't been mentally and physically ready for the FedEx play-offs and into the early part of the autumn with the Ryder Cup.

"Even looking back to Medinah, I didn't feel like I was physically on top of my game that weekend (he won just one point from four matches), and I really didn't play as well as I'd like to.

"It's really been a conscious decision since then to try and have myself in peak condition come July, August, September."

Kaymer won the French Open back in 2009, but missed the cut in his native Germany last week in his first appearance since claiming his second major title at Pinehurst.

"I just didn't play as good. It's that simple," the 29-year-old said. "To play in your home country is very, very difficult and I think for a lot of French players this week as well, there are so many expectations from all the people.

"People think it's easier because it's your home crowd and all those things, but I think it's the toughest tournament you play all year. And then of course you have to do a few things on the side media-wise and all those things that take a little bit away from your time on the golf course, but we all know that. It's just a matter of organising it and preparing as good as possible."

The good news for Kaymer is that he has been given an early tee-time for the second round on Friday, meaning he should be finished in plenty of time to watch the World Cup quarter-final between Germany and France.

"When I saw the tee times, 1.20pm tomorrow and then early on Friday, I was very glad. I like to think that they did it on purpose so I could watch the game," Kaymer added.

"It will be a very tough game. Obviously we have played against France a lot of times, but in these extreme situations it's always tough to say. We struggled a little bit against Nigeria the other day, but then patience paid off in the end.

"I will wear my (Germany) shirt somewhere so hopefully I won't get attacked!"

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