His brother has worked there for over 20 years. He has played the course over 500 times. But come July, none of that will matter to Graeme McDowell if he doesn’t get into the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, the course he grew up on and knows so well.
As of this moment Graeme has not yet qualified for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. At one point he thought he would get a special exemption but the R&A, organizers of the event, were steadfast on not handing any of those out. He now has just four chances left to get in, starting this week at the Canadian Open. From there his chances get more slim with each passing week. The US Open next week, the Irish Open July 4th-7thand finally the Scottish Open July 11th-14th. In almost all of these cases Graeme will need to earn one of just three spots that go to the highest finishing (must be top-ten) unqualified golfers that week. To get in from the US Open, he will have to win.
With an opening round 66 (-4) here in Hamilton on Thursday Graeme has put himself in a good spot to go after the top-ten over the weekend and get his exemption out of the way now before heading to Pebble next week, the site of his 2010 US Open victory.
I spoke with him and a source from the R&A who would prefer to remain unnamed:
GRAEME MCDOWELL: “I mean, there is no doubt of course I want to be there at Portrush, but I’ve got four golf tournaments where I’m going to be trying as hard as I possibly can – here, the U.S. Open, Irish Open, and Scottish Open; and there are spots up for grabs in all four of these.
If I play well enough I’ll get there. If I don’t play well enough, I don’t deserve to be there. So it’s all good. Like I say, shove it to the back of my mind. I want to come here and try and compete this weekend and see what happens. The mindset is just focus on what I’m doing here this week. I’ve been dealing with the Open Championship thing for a few months now. I think I’ve finally managed to put it to the back of my mind. That’s really what it boils down to. Coming into the Canadian Open this week trying to compete, play well, and really doesn’t change with the Open Championship sort of looming. Obviously one eye on Pebble next week. I think this is a great warmup in many ways. “
R&A Source: “We would absolutely love to have Graeme in the event. Unfortunately we have only ever given out one special exemption and that was to Tom Watson in 2015. As a five-time champion we wanted to give him one last chance to walk across the Swilcan Bridge. But we can’t give out an exemption because someone is a local. We would absolutely love to have him there though, it would be a great story. And this week with the RBC connection would be the perfect week for him to do it. “