McDowell in the pink
Graeme McDowell has firmed up as a favourite for next week’s British Open with a commanding victory in the French Open in Versailles.
By Bernie McGuire
McDowell captured his third victory in just seven events, winning by four shots with a final round four-under par 67 for a nine under tally on the Le National course
The Irishman is now just one win away from matching World No. 1 Tiger Woods, who has four wins from his 10 events this season.
McDowell went into the last day on the 2018 Ryder Cup host course tied with South African Richard Sterne but set the tone for the afternoon with a birdie at the first, and while Sterne drew level with a birdie at the third, it was closest McDowell allowed any of rivals.
The former US Open winner, and wearing his now customary pink shirt on the last day, then birdied his ninth and 10th holes while Sterne buckled with bogeys at 12 and 16.
And after McDowell birdied 17 and Sterne bogeyed, McDowell found himself striding down the last with a four shot leading cushion.
“It’s very special after the last couple of months,” said McDowell.
“It’s been a bit of a battle, and it’s been a very funny year. My game has not felt far away most weeks but I have missed a lot more cuts than normal and missing cuts hurts.
“It certainly motivated me a lot the last few weeks. Missing the cut at the US Open was a tough one to take and then missing the cut in Ireland last week just made me more hungry to want to be in positions like I was today.”
Victory continues an incredible rollercoaster three months for McDowell since the Masters, capped by the pinnacle of three wins but tumbling off the cliff top after each success in missing a halfway cut.
Indeed his record since Augusta National reads — RBC Heritage (victory), Players Championship (missed cut), Volvo World Match-Play Championship (victory), US Open (missed cut), Irish Open (missed cut) and now a first French Open success.
“That’s the way I have been playing golf this year binary numbers with zeroes and ones,” he added.
“The ones are very special but as I said the zeroes have done nothing but motivate me.”
McDowell is the first Irish-born winner in the oldest National Open on the Continent since Phillip Walton claimed the title in 1990.
His success is also an equal career best with McDowell having also won three times in 2010 and the golfer, who turns 34 later this month, still has half a season to play.
As well, McDowell’s €500,000 first prize cheque also sends him through the €15m barrier in European Tour money counting events, and also lifts McDowell to second on the Race to Dubai and just €27,185 behind US Open champion Justin Rose.
Among the first to congratulate McDowell were his parents, along with now French Open and 2018 Ryder Cup ambassador and former Tour player, Jean Van de Velde.
v And McDowell is already looking ahead five years when the famed Le National course will play host to Ryder Cup.
“What we are witnessing is the maturing now of probably one of the best Ryder Cup venues of all time in 2018 and I believe this golf course is going to be phenomenal,” he said.
“It will be exciting, dramatic and just an incredible atmosphere and hopefully I will be fit and well enough to be a part of the European Team.
“I will be 39 years old and I am already looking forward to it.”
Fellow Ulsterman Gareth Maybin grabbed his best finish in 14 months, posting a 68 for a share of eighth place at one under par.
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