Friday 20 April 2018

Open can return to former glory as one of Tour's premier events, insists McDowell

Graeme McDowell during a press conference at the Irish Open Golf Championship 2013 Pro Am
Graeme McDowell during a press conference at the Irish Open Golf Championship 2013 Pro Am

Karl MacGinty

A conversation with Graeme McDowell is always well-salted with vision and quips.

Like yesterday at Carton House, when, in one breath, McDowell eloquently proposed a formula to save the ailing European Tour and turn the Irish Open into a €5m event capable of luring golf's greatest stars to our shores.

Then in the next, he bluntly attributed his failure, thus far, to perform up to expectations at his national Open in just three words: "Pressure and Guinness."

The latter was a joke. McDowell (33) looks more trim and fitter now than at any other point in his career.

Yet as the Portrush native perused five missed cuts in 11 appearances at the Irish Open, he explained: "There's an added intensity for the home players in the build-up to this event.

"Winning the Irish Open definitely is on my bucket list," he added.

"Maybe we all want it too bad. On top of the desire to please the home fans, we place ourselves under internal pressure and expectation."

Though McDowell missed the cut at Carton in 2005 and 2006, he revels in the current, more player-friendly set-up at the Montgomerie Course.

He's perfectly equipped to pick his way around its cavernous bunkers and claim a third win of the season to go with prestige victories in the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage and last month's Volvo World Match Play.

Conceding he'd been ill-prepared for the Masters ("my fault") and US Open (when "dreadful weather" made a nonsense of his plans at Merion), McDowell (right) insisted he "wouldn't swap my first six months of 2013. Those wins are hugely important."

Admitting the future of Tour golf on this side of the Atlantic looks parlous as an ever-increasing number of Europeans play the majority of their golf in the US, he said: "We're struggling for great events in Britain, Ireland and Continental Europe."

McDowell, one of the 10 players on the winning Ryder Cup team at Medinah on the PGA Tour, revealed that "10 or 15" of Europe's leading players sat down for an informal brainstorming session last month.

The general consensus, he explained, was that top European Tour players might be persuaded to 'come home' more often if lucrative tournaments were grouped together at strategic times of the season.

"A nice swing of events around Wentworth, for example, or the US Open. Another around the time of the Dunhill Links perhaps," he explained. "We must come up with a plan to make events more attractive financially and from a venue point of view."

He strongly recommended playing the Irish and Scottish Opens on classic links courses on either side of the British Open.

"We are all very motivated to try and reinstate the Irish Open as one of the premier events on the European Tour," McDowell added.

"For that to happen, we need a great date and also need a great sponsor to boost this tournament financially. Why couldn't we play on a phenomenal links course the week before or after the British Open for four or five million euro? That'd be a class opportunity to attract a world-class field."

Irish Independent

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