PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Graeme McDowell spent much of this spring and summer sidestepping a nagging question: would he qualify for this year’s Open at Royal Portrush?
Thanks to a 30-footer for par on the 72nd hole at the RBC Canadian Open in June, McDowell finally had an answer when he earned his spot in the field at Portrush, where he grew up. He also avoided a difficult choice.
Earlier this season, McDowell committed to a charity event in Portrush the Monday of championship week, a commitment he said he’d honor even if he didn’t qualify for the event. He added, however, that he’d not stay to watch the championship if he wasn’t playing.
Asked on Wednesday if he would have been able to leave his hometown during a landmark week, McDowell sidestepped the question.
“Thankfully we'll never know the answer,” he laughed. “I'd say obviously my plan was to do those [charity events] and get out of here, because I couldn't stand to be here, it would be too bittersweet. It would be too tough to watch the guys go out there and compete on this place where I kind of learned the game.”
Fortunately, McDowell didn’t have to make the choice and will instead get a chance to play the course that inspired him to dedicate himself to golf.
“We had the British Amateur come here in '93, which I [was a standard-bearer] for most of the weekend,” he said. “I looked at those guys and realized that I wanted to be a great amateur player.”