IRISH OPEN: Graeme McDowell hoping ultimate home comforts will boost hopes at Portstewart
Graeme McDowell hopes the ultimate in home comforts can help him find the missing piece of the jigsaw in the Â£5.4million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart.
McDowell was born just a few miles away in Portrush and is staying in his parents’ home this week, a house he bought for them after winning his first European Tour title in 2002.
The former US Open champion is one of the few players in the star-studded field to have any significant experience of Portstewart, with the front nine of the course being designed by one of his former maths teachers.
And the 37-year-old is praying that adds up to at least the first top-10 finish of a disappointing campaign, which would give him a chance of securing one of the three places available in the Open at Royal Birkdale.
“Portstewart is a golf course that I played a lot as a kid,” said the world number 100, who has not been outside the 100 since January 2008.
“We used to play a lot of our school’s matches here and I think one of my maths teachers actually designed the front nine about 30 years ago. I’ve got a lot of good memories here and it’s just great to be back on the north coast and showcasing what we have up in this part of the world.
“The golf course is in great shape and my game feels right there. I’d dearly love to compete here this weekend and give it a rip on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s been a frustrating year for sort of all the right reasons because I’ve been playing well and just really haven’t had those big finishes which are the catalyst to more confidence and more belief. That’s really the big piece of the puzzle that’s been missing for me.
“I feel like I’m doing so many things right. I’m top 10 in driving accuracy over in the US and I feel like I’m back to putting nearly my best again. I’m doing a lot of things that took me to one of the top players in the world around the 2010, 2012 mark.
“And I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to get up into contention on a Sunday afternoon where I feel like I want to be. So this would be a great week to really kind of reignite things for me.”
McDowell has played in the Open every year since making his debut in 2004, but after opting not to contest final qualifying on Tuesday he must rely on claiming one of the three places up for grabs here or in next week’s Scottish Open.
“I think I might be less frustrated than my caddie would be,” McDowell added. “I think he’s caddied in the last 26 Opens in a row. So if he is to miss, he would be fairly disappointed in me.
“First and foremost is to try and compete this week. To get one of those spots for the Open Championship would be kind of mission two, I suppose. If it doesn’t happen this week, I’ll go to Scotland next week and try to get in there.
“If it doesn’t happen, of course I’ll be disappointed. It’s just kind of been a waiting game which has tested our patience so far this season. But we’ll keep chugging away.
“I didn’t like the odds in the 36-hole qualifiers, three spots for 90 guys and it really didn’t make a lot of sense for me. I felt like these two weeks are big opportunities and if I don’t play well enough, I don’t deserve to be there, anyway.”