The dream on top of the dream: Graeme McDowell gets first look at The Open course and discusses Portrush ambition
Who else should be the first player to get a glimpse of The Open course at Royal Portrush than Graeme McDowell?
On the very day that the Dunluce Links closed to members ahead of the 148th Open Championship, hometown boy G-Mac was back to get a head-start on his competitors.
Having sealed his place at the tournament care of a dramatic long distance putt on the 18th green at the Canadian Open last month, McDowell is already dreaming of getting his hands on the Claret Jug.
The 2010 US Open winner is getting back into form, bagging his first PGA Tour victory since 2015 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in March.
He has since secured two top 10 finishes, a tied 16th spot at the US Open and will be aiming high at this week's Irish Open in Lahinch.
But in two weeks' time, he will be more determined than ever to come out on top on the course he knows better than anybody else in the field.
“It’s important I don’t come here to enjoy the atmosphere. I'm coming here to compete," he told the BBC, allowing himself the space to look ahead to what could be the biggest Sunday of his career.
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“There is no better walk in golf than the 18th at an Open Championship. It has a special look, a special sound and to be here late on Sunday afternoon walking up here with a chance to win the Claret Jug - that would be the dream on top of the dream.
“For The Open to be back here is a dream come true but to be able to compete and have a chance to win, that would be extra special.”
McDowell, of course, grew up playing on the Dunluce Links as a member of neighbouring Rathmore GC.
But even he has never seen it like it is now.
“It looks fantastic and it is so unusual to come to a golf course that I've never seen stands on,” he said.
“Typically where we play, we see golf courses with stands and it’s unusual to see them without stands, so it’s so great to come back here to my home town, to play this golf course with all the great memories I have here and see it prepped for The Open.
“It's such a big show here and they’ve done such a great job with the infrastructure. There are so many great viewing spots for the fans and I imagine it's going to be an amazing week.
“The first tee's cool and there’s some nice seating around there. it will be a special moment standing on that first tee on Thursday morning and hearing my being announced 'from Portrush, Northern Ireland'. It will be the start of what is hopefully going to be a special weekend."
While tickets for the Championship days sold out months ago, supporters can still secure a spot at the practice days from Sunday 14 to Wednesday 17 July. Click here to buy tickets.
Belfast Telegraph Digital