Graeme McDowell has three reasons to succeed in this week’s French Open at the Le National course in Versailles.
McDowell won back-to-back French Open crowns in 2013 and 2014 to match the effort of some of the recent greats of European golf including Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros, so not only is McDowell seeking to win three French Open titles but on the table this week in a place in next month’s Open and later this year there’s the Ryder Cup.
The Ulsterman, tees-up this morning having struggled on his return to the States by missing the cut in both the U.S. Open and last week’s Travelers Championship. But now that he’s back in Europe and returning to winning French soil, McDowell’s excited to reproduce the form he displayed just prior to heading to the U.S. Openand, results of T12th at the BMW PGA and a share of fifth in the following week’s Italian Open.
“It is always very special coming back to somewhere we’ve you had success and this tournament is extra special having won twice and this year having the chance to win three times,” said McDowell.
“I’ve always enjoyed this golf course, right back in the early days when I would come here. The golf course has developed so much over the years. I think back in those first few years, the fescue grass was incredibly high and this golf course could play really, really difficult.”
“The guys involved here at Paris National have done a great job shaping the golf course and really helping it develop to the golf course we’ve been playing for the last few years now which has really become a great course.”
“It’s changed a lot over the years and the course has become a lot fairer but still there’s a big emphasis on hitting fairways here and hitting greens. The par 3s are some of the toughest par 3s we play all year. It’s a great golf course.”
“So, I’ve always enjoyed coming here but it’s extra special this year not only still chasing three wins but then there’s a ‘small’ event later this year.”
As he pointed out, victory would boost McDowell’s lowly 39th standing on the European Ryder Cup ‘World’ points table and the goal of returning to Versailles later this year as a playing member of the European Team and not as a vice-captain.
There’s also the added carrot for McDowell that he’s not into next month’s Open Championship and can secure a Carnoustie tee-time in finishing among the leading three come Sunday night who have not already qualified.
If not successful this week in securing an Open tee time, McDowell also has next week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to gain exemption and should he succeed then McDowell will remain in Europe for the Scottish Open being held the week prior to The Open.
If not, it’s probably back to the States for GMac and a bid to build on his current 137th PGA Tour FedEx Cup standing.
Shane Lowry also has returned to Europe to join McDowell and Paul Dunne in Versailles and it was at the 2009 French Open, his fourth event after turning pro, that Lowry earned a first pro career pay cheque of Euro 16,800 after forfeiting the big prize having been an amateur in winning the Irish Open.
FRENCH OPEN – IRISH TEE TIMES – (Irish time)
Graeme McDowell – 7.10am
Shane Lowry – 12.30pm
Paul Dunne – 11.50am
QUICKEN LOANS NATIIONAL (PGA Tour) – (Irish time)
Seamus Power – 6.20pm