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'Weight off my shoulders': Graeme McDowell ecstatic to secure Open spot after draining box office putt in Canada

Graeme McDowell's dream of competing in the Open Championship at his home course was unlocked in Canada.
Graeme McDowell's dream of competing in the Open Championship at his home course was unlocked in Canada.
Nice view: G-Mac in Portrush
On the ball: Rory McIlroy at moment of victory last night
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

If there's one thing the golfing world knows this Monday morning, it's that Northern Irish golf is pure box office.

The new world number three Rory McIlroy had spell-bound fans on 59-watch last night as he ran away with the Canadian Open, securing the victory by seven shots.

The 59 may have prove elusive thanks to bogeys at the 16th and the monumentally tough 18th but it was a victory that reminded critics, supporters and no doubt fellow competitors that on his day, Rory is the best there is.

And as if his nine birdies and one eagle wasn't enough entertainment for one evening, there was an even more captivating storyline unfolding slightly further down the leaderboard.

Graeme McDowell's battle for a place at next month's Open Championship in his hometown had golf fans, not just in Northern Ireland, on tenterhooks.

Needing to finish in the top 10 and as one of the top three unqualified players, G Mac carded a steady two under par round that only deviated from a string of pars for back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 that kickstarted his Open bid.

But it was the par save on the last that sealed the deal. Rattling in a 30 foot putt is no doubt the best way to stamp your card for Royal Portrush.

Isn't it just a pity the broadcasters seemed blissfully unaware that G Mac was THE story of the day? Onlookers were shown just a (small) handful of the 39-year-old's shots and then, when the penny dropped, the commentators were forced to explain the whole thing in about 2.5 seconds as his final putt traversed relentlessly towards the hole.

Infuriating to say the least.

When it comes to Royal Portrush, at least, his home support won't have to rely on TV to see their man in action.

“It would have been bitter-sweet for me to have to just watch The Open in my home town," a relieved McDowell confessed.

Nice view: G-Mac in Portrush

“It was a case of getting my head down and playing some golf. There were Open spots up for grabs and it’s nice to get the job done so I can enjoy what will be a very special week in my home town. I’m very ecstatic to be in the field.

“It was difficult to keep my focus as you don’t know who is in the top ten.

“I birdied 12 and 13 to get me going and tried my best to mess it up on 17 and 18.

“It looked like I needed to land the final putt and thankfully I was able to do that.

“The crowds know all about my bid to make The Open and I was reminded about that on virtually every tee box.

“Now I’ve got the extra weight off my shoulders and can look forward to the next few weeks.”

McDowell, of course, is enjoying his best run of form in at least over three years  just in time to revisit the site of his only major victory; Pebble Beach.

The US Open returns to the course of McDowell's 2010 victory this week and he admits there would be no better place to officially announce that he's back on top of his game.

“I have a vision of getting back to the top of the game one more time and how cool would it be if Pebble Beach is once again the launching pad?” McDowell said.

“It’s a course that suits me because it’s not a bombers’ course. It gives us shorter hitters a chance as it’s around 7,000 yards and I’m hoping it’s going to be firm and fast, make the greens play really, really small.

“Super-disciplined iron play is required, it’s really penal if you miss the greens.

“Similar to 2010 really. Firmness really is the protector at Pebble, and then obviously wind and a bit of weather.

“Going into that US Open at Pebble I was beginning to feel ready.

“I’d won the Welsh Open two weeks’ previous so I was feeling very in control of my game.”

Who knows, perhaps this time next week we will once again be toasting a Northern Irish major victor. Box office.

Belfast Telegraph


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