Graeme McDowell claims victory in France
Graeme McDowell today claimed his third win of the season, and third in eight events, with a hard-fought victory in the Alstom Open de France.
McDowell carded a closing 67 at Le Golf National to finish nine under par, four clear of South Africa's Richard Sterne who had been only one behind until bogeys at the 16th and 17th.
Sterne eventually did well to par the 18th for a final round of 71 to make sure of outright second, with 2007 winner Graeme Storm and Spain's Eduardo de la Riva a shot behind.
McDowell missed the cut in last week's Irish Open but reaped the rewards of staying on at Carton House over the weekend to work on his game, the first prize of 500,000 euros taking him less than 30,000 euros behind Justin Rose at the top of the European Tour's Race to Dubai.
It should also lift the former US Open champion from ninth to sixth when the world rankings are updated tomorrow, with the Open Championship at Muirfield just around the corner.
The 33-year-old began the day tied with Sterne and made the perfect start with a birdie from 15ft at the opening hole, but Sterne responded with a two-putt birdie on the par-five third, where McDowell was lucky not to find a water hazard with his drive.
Both players then birdied the fifth before a poor drive cost McDowell a bogey on the seventh, while the par-five ninth produced matching birdies for the final group from a greenside bunker.
McDowell was quick to get back on level terms at the start of the back nine, holing from nine feet for a birdie on the 10th and then missing from a similar distance on the next.
Sterne dropped his first shot of the day on the 12th after driving into heavy rough and coming up short of the green with his approach, and he looked certain to also bogey the 13th as well.
The South African committed the cardinal sin of taking an iron for safety only to push his tee shot into a water hazard, but after taking a penalty drop he hit his third shot to 20ft and holed for an unlikely par.
Luck certainly appeared to be on McDowell's side as he pulled his tee shot on the 16th but saw the ball take a fortunate bounce away from the heavy rough and kick 90 degrees right.
That left him with a relatively simple up and down, but he needed more good fortune after pulling his par putt and the sheepish grin after it somehow found the left edge of the hole told its own story.
Sterne had called for a "G-Mac bounce" after also pulling his tee shot but was not so fortunate and a bogey four gave McDowell a two-shot lead with two to play, the Northern Irishman then making certain of victory with a superb birdie on the 17th.
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