Sunday 18 November 2018

McDowell keeping his options open

Graeme McDowell plays a practice round ahead of the Open de France at Le Golf National, where he was won twice. Photo: Getty
Graeme McDowell plays a practice round ahead of the Open de France at Le Golf National, where he was won twice. Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell has entered Final Qualifying for The Open next Tuesday in case he fails to grab one of three places up for grabs at this week's $7m Open de France.

The Portrush star (38) is targeting three spots on offer at Le Golf National for non-exempt players in the top 10 and having won twice in Paris, the former US Open champion has every reason to feel confident.

If he doesn't make it, his entry for Final Qualifying means he can try to make it to Carnoustie at the Lytham Saint Annes venue, where there will be another three exemptions on offer.

It remains to be seen if McDowell will disrupt his build-up to next week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, where there will also be three Open places to be won, by stopping off in Lancashire.

Neil O'Brian, Cian McNamara, Shane Franklin, Gavin Moynihan and Mallow amateur James Sugrue have also been drawn at the Lancashire track while Tramore amateur Robin Dawson, now ranked 13th in the world following his runner-up finish in the Amateur Championship, will be chasing one of three places at Prince's in Kent alongside Donegal's Brendan McCarroll.

Read more: Gleeson and Lester in mix at Europeans

Peter Williamson and Michael Hoey will go for glory at Notts Golf Club while Naas's Conor O'Rourke, who was 11th reserve after losing out in a play-off in regional qualifying at County Louth on Monday, got the call to join Ballymena's Dermot McElroy at The Renaissance Club in St Andrews.

Qualifying for The Open is not a concern for Paul Dunne or Shane Lowry, who clinched their places via the Race to Dubai standings last season, and are focused on chasing an Open de France win worth $1.16m (€1m) and priceless Ryder Cup points. McDowell knows he will be back in Paris in September anyway as one of Thomas Bjorn's vice-captains.

But he's keen to continue his encouraging recent form and forget about the fact that he's outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings who will keep their PGA Tour cards.

"At the end of the day, that 125 thing, it is not do or die for me," McDowell said at the US Open.

"I have got plenty of things to do if I was to lose my card. I could go back to Europe, get a few starts here. It wouldn't be the end of my life."

He will have his work cut out to win a third French Open with world number two Justin Thomas and top Europeans Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ian Poulter and Matt Fitzpatrick teeing it up.

On the PGA Tour, Seamus Power will continue to look up rather than down as he bids to consolidate his position in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings at the Quicken Loans National in Maryland. Ranked 119th, he tees it up at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm seeking his maiden win and one of four places in The Open for the non-exempt players who finish in the top 12.

Given that he's ranked ninth for strokes gained putting, a few good weeks with the driver could see him produce something truly special. Tiger Woods, who may use a mallet putter for the first time today, would certainly love Power's putting stroke right now.

"I haven't putted well for about four tournaments now," Woods said.

"I had a run at The Players. I made some putts, didn't feel right, but they were going in. But other than that I have struggled."

He added: "Once I start to get that ball rolling on my lines, I will be back to putting like I was. On top of not rolling it on my line, I have not been seeing my lines and then it is a vicious cycle."

The 14-time Major winner (42) could climb as high as 42nd in the world with a win this week and having confirmed that he won't add more events to try and qualify for the final Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, he knows he has just this week and The Open to try and make it to Akron,.

Open de France

Sky Sports Golf 9.30am

Quicken Loans National

Sky Sports Golf 8.0pm

Irish Independent

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