Open Championship 2014: Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell ready to contend
Rob Lee says 2010 US Open champion has game to master Hoylake
Last Updated: 09/07/14 9:55am
Graeme McDowell’s victory at the Alstom Open de France should stand him in good stead for the Open Championship, a tournament that he surprisingly does not have a great record in.
McDowell’s only top-10 finish in the British Major is his fifth place at Royal Lytham in 2012, while he has missed the cut three times and ended last year’s competition in Muirfield just inside the top 60.
That is quite odd considering how good he usually is in links conditions, something he displayed when he battled the breeze on the cliff tops to win the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach.
Graeme’s natural game is knocking the ball down and avoiding the hazards and that will be fundamental at Hoylake.
Graeme has also won the Scottish Open on Loch Lomond and the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island, plus his victory in France last week, which recorded him back-to-back triumphs at the tournament, came in a wet and windy environment.
I think it’s only a matter of time before McDowell wins or goes extremely close to winning the Open and that could be as early as next week at Hoylake, where he led after round one in 2006.
Graeme’s natural game is knocking the ball down and avoiding the hazards and if Tiger Woods’ win eight years ago is anything to go by then that will be fundamental at Hoylake.
If your first shot is in the right place then it doesn’t really matter what distance you are from the hole when you take your second shot because you will always give yourself a chance.
McDowell will make sure that’s the case and because he is so brave if he is in contention on the Sunday it will take a great performance to beat him as he is not going to beat himself.
I am not surprised Graeme is not playing at this week’s Scottish Open because you have to have a rest at some point and he will be going full pelt between the Open Championship and the USPGA.
However, I would probably play the week before a Major to get the feel of tournament play and prevent myself from over-preparing, and I think the guys in Aberdeen will get some crucial Open practice in.
They will get used to the wind, seeing their ball flight come down, the sound and feel of a different kind of turf and playing little bump shots around the greens, which is great prep when you consider the situations you face for 95 per cent of the year are nothing like that.
Phil Mickelson’s back-to-back successes at the Scottish Open and the Open Championship in 2013 have seemingly convinced a lot of the star names to come over to Aberdeen.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler are among the players joining Mickelson, making this somewhat of a mini-Open, and I think it is going to be a big week for Lee Westwood in particular.
Lee needs a performance if he is going to realistically challenge at Hoylake, while Joost Luiten and Stephen Gallacher need to impress, too, as they try to secure spots in Europe's Ryder Cup team.
ROB'S SKY BET TIPS
My outside tip, though, is Ryan Palmer (80/1 with Sky Bet) as he has won the Sony Open in Hawaii before and loves the breezy conditions, but I think Francesco Molinari (33/1) is also a likely champion because he has been bubbling along nicely and is ready to strike it hot.
Francesco is a great ball striker – something you need to be in Aberdeen – but hasn’t been able to put four rounds together, though if he has a decent putting week he will be tough to stop.
At the John Deere Classic in Illinois, I think it is pretty classy for Jordan Spieth to go back and try to defend his title so close to the Open Championship and when there is not the biggest purse on the PGA Tour up for grabs.
Monty found the form at the Senior PGA that he could not find in his late forties on the European Tour, where I don’t think he liked feeling inferior and like he couldn’t operate alongside such long hitters.
But he has been reborn on the Champions Tour, where he is as good as anyone, and I think he can win his second Senior Major of the year at Oak Tree National.