For the first three or four months of the PGA Tour season, Graeme McDowell looked solid, with top-ten finishes in both World Golf Championship events to his credit. Although he’s been consistently good, he’s struggled to earn a breakthrough victory in 2014. Perhaps a trip home was all he needed, especially with the Open Championship just around the corner.
McDowell returned to the European Tour for the first time this year at June’s Irish Open, where he finished sixth. This week, McDowell looked to be out of contention to defend his 2013 title, as he began play on Sunday eight strokes behind leader Kevin Stadler. Stadler had looked nearly unstoppable after an opening round of 64. Of course, there’s a reason they play all four rounds.
McDowell fired the best round of the weekend, a four-under-par 67 that, if nothing else, gave him something to build on before he heads to Royal Liverpool in ten days. Even coming down the stretch, as Stadler struggled mightily, it never really looked like he could win. Then, on the 18th green, as McDowell was preparing for a possible playoff with the American, the unthinkable happened.
Stadler missed a three-footer for par. McDowell was, once again, a champion in Paris.
For the 34-year-old, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Majors have been something of an all-or-nothing affair for McDowell. Since his victory at the 2010 U.S. Open, he’s finished in the to-25 at a major seven times, while missing the cut seven times as well. Part of that is to be expected, with incredibly strong fields and challenging courses. But McDowell has been one of the top European players in the world for some time now, and the Open has a way of becoming a career-defining tournament.
It’s hard to define a true favorite for Hoylake, as the course is by all accounts far different than when it hosted the Open in 2006, where Tiger Woods last hoisted the Claret Jug. In those situations, though, sometimes momentum can carry over, and McDowell certainly has that on his side as he looks for his second major championship.