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McIlroy 'in good stead' to make major gains

RORY McILROY hinted in Paris yesterday that he could emulate fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell into the winner's enclosure at a major.

Seven birdies in his final round did not add the French Open title to his maiden US Tour victory at Quail Hollow in May.

That honour went to Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, who recovered from a late collapse to triumph in a three-man play-off with fellow countryman Alejandro Canizares and Italy's Francesco Molinari and add the Paris title to his win in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Jimenez, 46, who banked €494,000, could now be taking his red hair and ponytail to Celtic Manor in October as he occupies one of the nine automatic places in the Ryder Cup qualifying table.

But McIlroy's more immediate target is the British Open -- and an early chance to erase the disappointing memories of missing the cut at both the Masters and the US Open.

And he looked up to the challenge after a closing 66 at Le Golf National course, where the French hope to stage the Ryder Cup in 2018.

But for a missed 12ft birdie on the 18th he would have been part of the play-off -- and the way he played that final hole confirmed he is almost back to his confident best.

"I hit two good shots," said McIlroy before jetting off to today's JP McManus Pro-am in Limerick.

"The second was a 146-yard pitching wedge which I hit close when I was really trying to make a birdie.

"So I can take a lot from this week. I put myself in a lot of good positions which will stand me in good stead for St Andrews.

"If I can keep this form going until St Andrews I should have a good chance."

Michael Hoey posted a 66 to finish six under while Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin was two under after a 69.

Damien McGrane shot a disappointing final round 72 to finish tied for 11th on six under, missing out on a place in the British Open, while Peter Lawrie's 71 left him on level par.