RBC Canadian Open winner, Rory McIlroy was full of praise for good friend and fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell in securing a tee-time into next month’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
McDowell brilliantly holed a 30-foot par putt at the 72nd hole to earn his place in what will be a very historic Open Championship on the famed Co. Antrim course where the now 39-year old McDowell honed his game.
McDowell needed to not only finish inside the top-10 on at the RBC Canadian Open but be among the top-three who had not qualified for the 148th Open to claim his place and as it turned out, there were just two players inside the top-10 in the event, sensationally won by Rory McIlroy, who were not exempt into The Open.
They were Canadian Adam Hadwin and McDowell.
Though it was not all plain sailing for McDowell who had dipped to a share of 12th place before back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 and then he arrived at the 72nd hole needing to hole a 30-foot par putt to cement a share of eighth place.
McDowell calmly rolled-in the putt, much to the delight of long-time caddy, Ken Comboy who soon raised both arms into the air in delight.
And while McIlroy celebrated a 25th pro career victory and a sixth National ‘Open’ title, he was asked his reaction to his fellow Ulsterman securing a first Open Championship tee time in three years.
“I was looking at the leaderboard all day,” said McIlroy.
“Mostly to see where GMac would qualify rather than anything else. It just would’ve been such a shame if the Open comes to Portrush and the hometown boy couldn’t play.
“So, I am very proud, excited for him. I know it’s something he’s wanted for a while.
“Clearly, it’ll be great to have him in the field at Portrush. Very happy about that.”
McDowell had contested every Open Championship from 2004 to 2016 with a best finish of T5th behind Ernie Els in the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
Now Portrush’s favourite son tees-up on the course he knows like the back of his hand.
Well done, GMac. See you at Royal Portrush