By Keith Jackson at Royal Portrush
Last Updated: 17/07/19 6:48pm
Graeme McDowell admitted he forced himself to “refocus and motivate” as he faced the prospect of an early end to his career last year.
McDowell feared he would miss out on The Open returning to his home course at Royal Portrush this week as he tumbled out of the top 200 in the world rankings, dropping as low as 257th.
But the former US Open champion managed to turn his form around with a priceless victory in the Dominican Republic, and a consistent run of results since have rejuvenated McDowell ahead of his first appearance in The Open since 2016.
The 39-year-old is now ranked 97 in the world and sealed his place in the field with a superb 30-foot putt on the final hole at the RBC Canadian Open last month.
Although he missed the cut at the Irish and Scottish Opens, he is hoping that home support will inspire him to challenge for the Claret Jug this week.
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“Obviously, as soon as the tournament was announced, I wanted to be here of course,” he said. “I’ve missed the last couple of Opens, and it’s never easy to sit on the sidelines of the biggest events in the world.
“The Ryder Cups and major championships are events that I became very used to playing in. But when you’re sitting at home watching on TV, it’s frustrating. It makes you realise that if the game was gone tomorrow, you’d miss it really badly.
“I think middle of last year, middle of last season, I had that conversation with myself. I said, ‘Hey, if you continue to play the way you’re playing, this game is going to be gone a hell of a lot quicker than you thought it was going to be gone. What’s that going to feel like?’
“I think coming to that realisation helped me because it made me start to embrace the challenge a little bit more, enjoy the time I have left out here. I started to kind of get less frustrated and start to, like I say, start to enjoy the act of trying to pull myself out of the hole I dug for myself.
“And it’s weird, the fog started to lift a little bit. I finished the year pretty strongly last year, and came out pretty strongly this year. Getting into this tournament was never a given at 250 in the world, or wherever I started this year, I could have very easily missed it.
“My journey has been really about kind of facing the demons of mortality. It’s the attitude, every player has these conversations with himself. Guys do it differently from others, and I’ve always been kind of real and honest.
“I always like coaches and caddies and people around me who are honest with me and just say, ‘you’re not working hard enough. You need to start refocusing’. And I think the last few years are when I’ve needed those people myself.
“I’ve had to work hard and you have to work on the right things and you’re going to be patient and it has to hurt a few times. If you stay patient enough good stuff will happen again. And thankfully it did.
“It was amazing getting that job done in Canada. I certainly didn’t want to come home to the Irish and Scottish Open with that weight on my shoulders, trying to get into this tournament. Obviously I’m excited to be here, and it definitely would be a dream to be competitive this weekend.”
The Open Live
July 18, 2019, 6:30am