It seemed only appropriate local Portrush born-and-bred Graeme McDowell should be the first to play an official practice around at the now fully prepared Open Championship host venue, his beloved Royal Portrush, and he declared he will be looking to compete, not just enjoy the excitement of competing in his ‘home’ 148th Open Championship.
The host Royal Portrush course had been closed to visitors since May 31st and it was then closed to club members on June 30th, with only those competing in golf’s oldest major now eligible to play the course that last hosted the event in 1951.
And the first to play an official pre-Open practice round was McDowell who took to the course on Monday in bright but breezy conditions.
“The golf course just looks fantastic and it is so unusual to come to a golf course that I have never seen grandstands on,” said McDowell to BBC Northern Ireland.
“Typically where we play, we see golf courses with stands so it’s unusual to see them without stands, so that’s why it’s great back here to my home town and to play this golf course with all the great memories I have here.
“To see it all prepared for The Open as it such a big show here and they’ve done such a great job with the infrastructure. There is so many great viewing spots for the fans and I imagine it is going to be an amazing week.”
Having honed his now 15 pro-career winning career at Royal Portrush there will be no-one prouder than McDowell to hear his name called when he steps onto the first tee sometime on Thursday, July 18th.
“The first tee looks cool and there’s some nice seating around the tee and it will be a special moment standing on that first tee on Thursday morning and hearing my name being announced from Portrush in Northern Ireland, and it will be the start of what is going to be hopefully a special weekend.
“It’s important I don’t come here to enjoy the atmosphere as I will coming back here to compete.
“Also, there is no better walk in golf than the 18th hole at an Open Championship as it has a special look, a special sound and to be here late on Sunday afternoon walking up 18 with a chance to win the Claret Jug that would be the dream on top of the dream.
“For The Open to be back here is a dream come true but to be able to compete and have a chance to win that would be extra special.”
McDowell qualified for what will be his 14th Open Championship, and a first since 2016, having secured one of the qualifying spots on offer after finishing top-10 in last month’s RBC Canadian Open.
He made his Open Championship debut in 2004 at Royal Troon and recorded a best finish of T5th in 2012 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.