Graeme McDowell tees-up in this week’s RBC Canadian Open, the first of four events where he has the chance to qualify for next month’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
McDowell joins familiar faces Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Seamus Power in the event being played in Hamilton, Ontario.
McDowell is an RBC ambassador but the event takes on more stature given its move from the week following The Open to the week prior to the U.S. Open. It’s for this reason McIlroy is contesting the €6.8m event.
And while ‘G Mac’ will first and foremost be targeting a second PGA Tour victory this season, the 39-year old Portrush native will be hoping to grab one of the three exempt places into the July 18th starting Open.
McDowell’s also revealed that he’s entered a qualifier at St. Anne’s Old Links on Tuesday July 2nd, the week of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch to further enhance his chances of a Portrush tee-time.
If unsuccessful, there is still Royal Portrush places up for grabs at Lahinch and also the following week’s Scottish Open, an event McDowell won in 2008.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m there,” McDowell said to the BBC.
“I’ve already said there is no amount of alcohol that could keep me on the property of Portrush that week if I’m not competing. It would be very bittersweet, shall we say. So, I’m just trying to let it take care of itself.
“There are spots up for grabs at the Canadian Open, the US Open, Irish Open and Scottish Open.
“And I’m entered into final qualifying at St Anne’s Old Links ahead of the Irish Open as an absolute worse-case scenario.”
While the R&A as organisers of golf’s oldest Major do not afford special invitations as we see at The Masters, let’s not forget McDowell’s part in getting The Open back to Royal Portrush for a first occasion in 68 very long years.
He learned the game on the neighbouring Rathmore links with McDowell admitting any notion of golf’s oldest major returning to Northern Ireland was merely a ‘pipe dream’.
“I played a small part in bringing it back I suppose, winning the US Open in 2010,” McDowell said.
“Then Rory’s successes and then Darren winning at Royal St Georges, it’s been a cool journey.”
And while McDowell strives to gain entry into The Open, it is the same scenario for Power who is yet to contest any of the four Majors.
Harrington, McIlroy and Lowry are each exempt into Royal Portrush.
Ninety players have already qualified to tee-up at Royal Portrush and with just 39 days remaining, there are still 59 places available.
Should McDowell not qualify, he revealed he will still be travelling home to Portrush as he is to be honoured on the Tuesday night ahead of The Open at the annual dinner of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW).
McDowell is being honoured with the AGW’s ‘Arnold Palmer Open Award’, an award that reflects the relationship of golfers with the media.
It also comes as no coincidence that since the award was first presented in 2013, two other Irish in Harrington and McIlroy have been honoured by the AGW.
RBC CANADIAN OPEN – IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time)
Shane Lowry – 12.10pm (1st tee)
Padraig Harrington – 12.10pm (10th tee)
Rory McIlroy – 12.40pm
Seamus Power – 1.10pm
Graeme McDowell – 5.40pm
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