Monday 24 July 2017

'Am I 100th in the world? Anybody got a pint of Guinness?' - Graeme McDowell back on home turf and ready to rumble

McDowell has to grin and bear the banter.
McDowell has to grin and bear the banter.
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Home cooking from his mother Marian, a few pints of Guinness in the clubhouse at Rathmore Golf Club, the attentive concern about his swing from dad Kenny and his uncle 'Uel... it's all part of returning to his roots for Graeme McDowell.

The Portrush native, who reached the top of the golfing world with his 2010 US Open triumph, is now domiciled in Florida where he lives with his wife and two daughters, and is very comfortable with the life he has forged for himself since turning professional in 2002.

Rory McIlroy with James Nesbitt and Pep Guardiola at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast ahead of ‘An Evening with Rory’ which was attended by almost 3,000. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Rory McIlroy with James Nesbitt and Pep Guardiola at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast ahead of ‘An Evening with Rory’ which was attended by almost 3,000. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

But when he comes back to Northern Ireland, where he is treated as if he had never gone away, McDowell (right)has to grin and bear the banter. No bowing or scraping to celebrity here. They tell it like it is to G-Mac.

"Yeah, I had a pint with my dad and my brother in my home golf club of Rathmore yesterday.

"I always joke that people do treat me the same way as they treated me as I was 15 years old. I feel like they look at me the same way. I feel like they say the same things to me.

"You get a clip around the ear when you need one: 'What the hell were you doing last week at The French Open? I had a few quid on you'.

"You know, it is a sense of grounding and kind of coming home for me, and like I say, people treating me the same way they always have. It's nice and you kind of gain that humility that I think is important.

"It's different and special, and, you know, you certainly lose that perspective of what it's like to be anonymous.

"I feel like living in the US, you're fairly anonymous out there apart from the golfing world. But you come back to Ireland and it is a Village of Ireland, and people kind of know who you are and what you're up to.

"Like I say, I do love coming back up here. People are great and I'm very proud of where I've come from," said McDowell.

Right now, the question is where is he going? McDowell was not overly impressed to be told he is now the 100th-ranked golfer in the world.

He admitted to a crisis of confidence in the last year or so, and needs to find some serious form in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open or next week's Scottish Open if he is to play in the Open Championship.

Only a top-ten finish in either event can earn him his passage to Royal Birkdale.

"Am I 100th in the world? Anybody got a pint of Guinness I can have? Listen, put it this way: I knew that was on the way if I didn't get my act together," he said.

McDowell was asked if he recalled how he felt when he broke into the top 100 golfers in the planet.

"Do I remember breaking the world's top hundred? No. Top 50 was obviously more of a special number I think.

"I kind of remember having more emotion about breaking the Top 50, but you know, falling out of the top hundred is obviously pretty disappointing.

"But it's not really sort of a life-changing number right this second for me.

Solid

"I really feel like I'm moving in the right direction and results have just been slightly beyond me this year, unfortunately. But it certainly doesn't change anything.

"I feel like I keep working the same way. My schedule remains fairly solid. Obviously the Open is a bit of a problem, and not really sure what the PGA Championship looks like now for me, either, but there's plenty of great golf to play in and I've just got to play better, simple as that.

"No excuses. I've just got to work harder and believe in myself and play better," he said.

McDowell will have huge support from friends, family and his host of fans this week on a course he knows well from his days as a fledgling golfer.

His former maths teacher, Des Giffin, designed seven of the holes on a refurbished layout almost 30 years ago.

"Portstewart is a golf course that I played a lot as a kid. We used to play a lot of our schools matches here.

"There's always a nice edge, feeling like you do know the golf course, but I have to be honest, I've probably played it twice in the last 20 years," he said.

Pádraig Harrington is geared up for a challenge to battle for another Irish Open win to go with the title he won in 2007, becoming the first Irish winner since John O'Leary in 1982.

His problem is that injuries have curtailed his season and he has only played 25 competitive rounds since November.

"I think the golf course will give me an advantage. A links golf course, it suits me eye.

"Clearly I would like to think I'm second to nobody when it comes to managing my way around a links golf course.

"I would preferably like to see some wind, but even sunny, baked-out golf courses provide a great test when it comes to links," he said.

Spain's new emerging star Jon Rahm has an advantage over McDowell and Harrington, as he played Portstewart in competition two years ago when he competed in the British Amateur Championship.

First Tee

9.30 NEIL O BRIAIN, Ashley Chesters, Thomas Aiken.

12.50 MICHAEL HOEY, Nicolas Colsaerts, Robert Karlsson.

1.0 PAUL McGINLEY, Alexander Levy, Thongchai Jaidee.

1.10 Tyrell Hatton, Lee Westwood, PAUL DUNNE.

1.20 RORY McILROY, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm.

1.30 Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Danny Willett. 1.40 Soren Kjeldsen, DARREN CLARKE, Andrew Johnston

2.10 Ryan Fox, Pep Angles, GARY HURLEY.

2.20 Johan Carlsson, DAMIEN McGRANE, Marcus Armitage.

2.30 Benjamin Herbert, GAVIN MOYNIHAN, Marcus Armitage

TENTH TEE

8.10 Rafa Cabrero Bello, SHANE LOWRY, Thomas Pieters.

8.20 Justin Rose, GRAEME McDOWELL, Tommy Fleetwood

1.30 PáDRAIG HARRINGTON, MA Jimenez, Andy Sullivan.

12.40 Stuart Manley, Matthieu Pavon, COLM MORIARTY.

2.10 DAVID HIGGINS, Eduardo De La Riva, Romain Langasque.

2.30 DERMOT McELROY, Sebastien Gros, Nacho Elvira.

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