Friday 23 August 2019

McDowell: I'll qualify for Portrush if I play like this

Graeme McDowell. Photo: Sportsfile
Graeme McDowell. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell believes he will earn a coveted place in The Open if he forgets about trying to qualify and plays like he did in the opening round of the US PGA yesterday.

The Portrush native is desperate to tee it up in his home town in July and he knows he will make it if he plays the golf that helped him open with an impressive level-par 70 at Bethpage Black.

The 2010 US Open champion tapped into his Pebble Beach mindset and ground out pars, mixing birdies at the fifth, 13th and 17th with bogeys at the 11th, 15th and 18th.

In contrast, Shane Lowry paid for every mistake and slipped to a five-over 75 that left him 12 shots behind leader Brooks Koepka.

One-under through five holes and cruising, the Offaly man hit just four fairways from there before being whisked away for random drug testing to reflect on his errors from the tee and a brace of painful three-putt bogeys at his ninth and 18th holes.

McDowell, though, was upbeat and while he's yet to qualify for Royal Portrush, and knows every potential qualifying route, he's convinced that he plays his best when he just focuses on the present.

"I am trying to push it as far back as I can," McDowell said when asked if The Open was on his mind. "It is out of my control. All I can do is control my golf ball and play as well as I can.

"If I continue swinging it the way I am swinging it, I will be in Portrush. It is just really hard when people on the rope line are saying, 'I hope you get into Portrush, it will be terrible if you are not there'.

"If I start getting obsessed with Portrush, I am going to be back where I was six weeks ago before winning in the Dominican Republic."

The good news for McDowell is that Bethpage Black is closer to a US Open set-up than the regular PGA Tour test he faced in the two Barclays events staged here and that gives him a chance against the big hitters.

"I have to continue hitting a lot of fairways this weekend to have a chance to play this golf course," said McDowell.

"I think when I was coming here, I was a little hesitant about the course and the set-up, but I was pretty happy when I saw it yesterday, how thick the rough was.

"No one can play the course in the rough. It doesn't matter if you're Dustin Justin, or Brooks Koepka. Even he can't get on the greens from the rough.

"I'm happy enough going against Brooks Koepka. If he's hitting 5-iron, I'm happy enough to hit 5-wood or 3-iron. If he's hitting 9-iron and I'm hitting 4, that's a problem.

"This course is not that kind of course. He's got 5-iron, and I've got 3-iron or 5-wood.

"I think if you pinched the fairways in maybe another three feet, four feet on each side, you'd have a US Open. I think that's the only difference.

"They're probably slightly more generous than the USGA would have them, but only very, very slightly. It's an intimidating test off the tee. You have to drive the eyes out of it."

Irish Independent

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