Graeme McDowell will be trying to avoid thinking about The Open Championship in his hometown of Portrush in two weeks as he bids to start his links golf season on a high at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on Thursday.
McDowell, who turns 40 on July 30, has returned to Lahinch where he won the South Of Ireland Championship as an amateur in 2000, a few weeks before travelling home to Royal Portrush to add the Irish Close Championship to his trophy haul that summer.
Securing a return to his hometown course for the opportunity to compete in The Open there was a season-long goal for McDowell. He did just that, qualifying last month at the Canadian Open to relieve the building pressure and now feels he can benefit from the ability to focus on a singular goal here in Co. Clare.
“I’m very much trying to keep my eye on this week and trying to play as well as I possibly can,” McDowell said on Wednesday.
I spent a couple of days at Portrush the last few days and I feel like I’ve already done my prep up there now and I can really focus on trying to play well these next two weeks. Then we’ll go to The Open Championship and see what happens.
McDowell has come a long way since winning the South in 2000 and though the victory and the town of Lahinch are fondly remembered he admitted to a poor memory of the actual course.
“First time back here in I think 18 years and I’ve got to be honest, I don’t remember the golf course very well, my memories are pretty minimal but I always have great memories from the South of Ireland, good times.
“I don’t remember the golf course being this good, to be honest. I really enjoyed it this morning. The course is very mixed, front nine quite short and tricky, and you can make a score on the back nine, it’s quite long and a little bit more there in front of you.
“The weather’s perfect, great fans out there and the atmosphere should be a lot of fun this weekend. So a great venue, I’m very happy for Paul (McGinley, tournament host) and what he’s done here, it looks spectacular, a great field and hopefully we have a nice weekend.”