Graeme McDowell more than welcomes the ‘hope you make it into The Open’ comments but the Portrush native is fully aware of the work ahead of him if he is to qualify for golf’s oldest major.
McDowell got one ‘gorilla’ off his back earlier this year in securing PGA Tour full membership to the end of 2021 with victory in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in March.
Now the goal for GMac is locking-in a tee-time for July’s 148th Open Championship.
There is still a number of Royal Portrush qualifying avenues ahead for the now 39-year old, including capturing a second Pebble Beach hosted US Open next month. As well, McDowell can earn a play into The Open via both the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open or the following week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
What McDowell doesn’t need, however, is the constant Royal Portrush encouragement reminders as he tries to tackle the task at hand.
“A lot of people on the rope line are saying to me, ‘I hope you get into Portrush. It would be terrible if you weren’t there,’” McDowell said to reporters at the 101st PGA Championship.
“I’m like, you don’t have to remind me. I’m well aware. I know there is a few ways I can [qualify] but I don’t fully know to be honest with you.
“The thing is, if I start getting obsessed with Portrush I’ll be right back where I was six weeks ago before I won with a gorilla on my back. When there is a big weight on my shoulders, I’m not that good.
“I’ve just got to get out of my own way and have a little fun and not have things like that rattle around in my head too much.
“So, it is out of my control. All I can do is control my golf ball and play as well as I can.
“I know if I can continue swinging it the way I am swinging it, I will be in Portrush.”
One thing is certain, McDowell will be present at Royal Portrush for The Open whether or not he is competing.
The Northern Irishman will be in attendance on the night of Tuesday 16th July as a guest of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW) where he is to be honoured with the Arnold Palmer Open Award at the AGWs ‘highly-respected’ annual dinner.
It is an award reflecting the ‘openness’ of the game’s leading players in dealing with the media and McDowell is one of the most-approachable in the game.
The award itself was first handed-out in 2013 and it must be a reflection of the good-standing of the Irish among the media that Padraig Harrington won the inaugural award and Paul McGinley was honoured in 2015.
And the AGW at their annual dinner is also proudly honouring long-time Royal Portrush Secretary, Wilma Erskine for ‘Services to Golf’.