Golf

Graeme McDowell hails 'feel good factor' created by Open weekend

Graeme McDowell had a difficult week at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club
Picture by PA
Paul Kelly in Portrush

BATTERED and bruised by a final round 77 (+6) Graeme McDowell took some time to enjoy the moment as he walked up the 18th fairway at Royal Portrush on Sunday.

“I'm not a hundred per cent on top of my game at the minute. When it got tough out there I couldn't get it in the fairway,” said McDowell.

“I lost a ball on eight. Missing that fairway left was a killer blow, really knocked the wind out of my sails a little bit but I'm not going to let that spoil my week. It's been special. I've enjoyed every second. Well, there's a few seconds I didn't enjoy, maybe Thursday afternoon [when he lost a ball on the 18th]. But it's been great. I am really, really proud. I'm proud of Portrush and proud of Northern Ireland and I'm proud of Ireland.”

McDowell had harboured ambitions of making a final day charge and posting a number which would test the leaders but it never materalised following a run of dropped shots around the turn. The soon to be 40-year-old said; “It was emotional at times this week. Thursday morning on the first tee was very emotional.

“Yesterday, Saturday, was probably one of the most fun days I've had on a golf course outside of a Ryder Cup, really. There were tens of thousands of people out there cheering me on on the third group on a Saturday morning. It was special.”

Instead, McDowell, who grew up in Portrush, playing golf at the nearby Rathmore Club, was already looking forward to the next time the Open Championship returns to the North Coast: “I've heard the whispers that we could be back here as soon as five years from now,” he said.

“I think with the financial commitment that Portrush have made for this, for it to get the recognition and then get back here soon, to keep that Portrush train rolling, it would be huge. The caddies and players and some of the commentating crew out there, people are saying it's just one of the best links they've ever seen. Which is high praise from the best players in the world who get to play the best courses on the planet. If we have to wait another ten years, the icing might rub off between now and then. People might forget a little bit.”

The Open won't be an experience that Royal Portrush professional Gary McNeill forgets any time soon after he stepped in to play as a marker alongside Paul Waring on Saturday and Ashton Turner on Sunday: “It has been incredible, I have really enjoyed it,” said the 49-year-old.

“It's obviously a 50/50 shot. It might be an odd or even number of players who make the cut. It has been a dream week. To see the tournament come together and everything go so well and to play yesterday and today has been brilliant.”

Gary has been the professional at Royal Portrush for over 20 years and like every golfer dreamed of one day playing in The Open. He doesn't play competitive golf very regularly and had little time to get 'game' ready before playing at the weekend, bar hitting a few shots on the range.

With that in mind, he still managed to break 80 yesterday while enjoying the cheers that greeted him onto every green and every tee box: “The course looks brilliant and the grandstands, even today when it is not that nice, are filled with people as well,” he said.

“There is a real feel good factor about this tournament. It is wonderful. 68 years was a long time for it to come back and I am sure the R&A will be looking to bring it back here again before too long.”

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