Graeme McDowell couldn't play a golf tournament in 2019 without being asked about not yet having qualified for this year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush, a course he could walk as a youngster growing up in Northern Ireland. On Sunday at the RBC Canadian Open, the 39-year-old got so sick of the questions that he finally did something about it.
This week in Canada presented one of McDowell's last chances to get into the field, with three spots up for grabs for the top-three finishers in the tournament at Hamilton Golf & Country Club who have not already qualified (and also still finished in the top 10). After opening with rounds of 65 and 67, McDowell was in contention, but a ho-hum even-par 70 on Saturday meant he needed to conjure up some final-round magic to punch his ticket to Portrush. Through 17 holes the 2010 U.S. Open winner was at two under, needing par to remain at 10 under for the tournament and inside the top 10.
With only one other player in the top 10 having not yet qualified (Canada's Adam Hadwin), McDowell was in prime position. That was until he missed the fairway, then laid up with his second shot and hit his third to 30 feet. A miss and he would have thrown away one of his better opportunities this season to get into the Open. McDowell, who has made some incredibly clutch putts in his career, came up big again, burying a 30 footer with the Open on the line:
You might recall, McDowell made the winning Ryder Cup putt in 2010 at Celtic Manor, and earlier that year tapped in a putt to win his first major at Pebble. This non-winning putt may be on par with the both of them, as it gets him in to the Open on his home course, a dream come true for G-Mac. And to think, he was OK with letting the dream die, at least according to these quotes from McDowell on Friday in Canada:
"I feel like I've had three or four months wrestling with the Portrush dilemma. Thinking of putting a statement out on Twitter and saying I appreciate everyone's concern. The people that think I should get an invite and the people that think I shouldn't, I hear them. But I'm pretty much come to terms with the fact that if I play well between now and Portrush I will play. If I don't play well between now and Portrush, I won't and I'll deserve not to play.
"I'm OK with that. The R&A don't have a precedent where they've invited guys before and that's fine. At least I know my fate. I'm going out here trying to win the RBC Canadian Open this week. I could care less about Portrush. I would rather win this week and not play Portrush. That's the bottom line. Yes, it will be a special week, but it's not instant success.
"I could be there and miss a cut and think, Well, what was all the fuss about? It's like, I would rather play well on this weekend and let Portrush take care of itself. I really don't care."
Not surprisingly, McDowell changed his tune on Sunday when talking to CBS' Amanda Balionis.
"Obviously, the chase for the Open Championship at Portrush and getting my spot for that, it's really been a journey since Bay Hill this year, the first tournament that had some sports [available] for the Open Championship. I got off to a good start there, and I kind of feel like I've been battling those emotions ever since. Coming into this week, with spots available, people have been reminding me all week, every hole out there it's like 'Hope you get to Portrush!', 'Hope you get in the Open!' So there was no chance i was going to be able to shove that to the back of my mind.
"It was nice to be able to play decent enough to get it done today."
It will be McDowell's first Open Championship start since 2016, when he tied for 63rd at Royal Troon. He should have a home course advantage, as he's played Portrush "between 300 and 500 times," according to him. Next week he returns to Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open, where he won his first major in 2010.