Former champ Graeme McDowell admits not being in next week’s U.S. Open is a ‘slap in the face’ as he looks to get back into the ‘less privileged side’ of contesting all four majors. After failing to qualify for a Torrey Pines tee time, McDowell is looking at a first year of not competing in any of the four majors since turning professional nearly 20-years ago.
In fact, McDowell has competed in at least one major championship a year since making his major debut in the 2004 Open Championship at Royal Troon, and for those 17 years, he’s played in all four majors a year for 10-years, including eight years running from 2009 to 2016 while he contested all three last year given the Open Championship was cancelled.
On Father’s Day 2010 he captured the U.S. Open to earn a 10-year exemption along with a five-year exemption into the golf’s other three majors – The Masters, PGA Championship and The Open. However, his U.S. Open exemption ended last year in missing the halfway cut at Bethpage Park while he was not exempt for the recent PGA Championship and is currently not exempt into next month’s July 15th commencing Open Championship at Royal St. George’s.
McDowell’s U.S. Open plight did see him ‘bite the bullet’ and enter a final qualifier early last week in Dallas but his chances of earning one of the 10 spots on offer was ruined by two separate lengthy rain delays. The 36-hole qualifier had been set down for the Monday but by late Tuesday afternoon, and with no sign of a restart to the now delayed second round, McDowell chose to advise officials of his withdrawal so that he could focus on teeing-up in the Thursday starting Charles Schwab Challenge in nearby Fort Worth.
McDowell’s contested 54 majors in his career with a joint second at the 2012 U.S. Open along two other top-10s in The Open, a T10th in the PGA Championship along with a Masters best of a T12th in his 10 Augusta National showings. Naturally, his major’s scenario comes as a surprise to the 41-year-old.
“Having to tee-up in the US Open qualifier was a bit of a reality check for me, a slap in the face,” he said. “But I flew into Dallas the Saturday before, had two good practice sessions but unfortunately, we got to 11am on Tuesday, a day after the event was scheduled to finish, and with a 5-hour delay ahead.
“I was also participating in the Colonial event last week, so I had to make a decision. Do I want to play in a U.S. Open? Then again, this is what it’s going to take to play if I’m getting back to the less privileged side of golf.”
In contrast, had McDowell won the Masters or the PGA Championship he would be exempt for life while victory in the Open Championship allows you to play until age 60. And while not a fan of ‘lifetime exemptions’, seeing Phil Mickelson win last fortnight’s PGA Championship aged a month shy of 51, had the Portrush man thinking.
“You know the Masters has a lifetime exemption and so does the PGA while you can tee-up at the Open Championship till you get to 60 so maybe the USGA (US Open) is more concerned about our health playing at an old age,” said McDowell. “I’m like, what did we do wrong?
“Generally, I am not in favour of a lifetime exemption, I’m really not, but when you see what Phil did at the PGA at almost 51, maybe there is something to that.”
With the cut-off point to qualify automatically into the 149th Open Championship by being inside the top-50 on the World Rankings ending last week, the current World No. 151 has really just two options remaining if he wants to tee-up at Royal St. Georges and that is to enter a final qualifier on June 29th at one of four venues in England. If not, a last option is to secure one of two exempt places available through the AIS Scottish Open being played the week prior to The Open.
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