Graeme McDowell has a golden opportunity to step through an Open door this week and take the Claret Jig back to Ireland.

With Tiger Woods out for the year and Padraig Harrington crocked by a wrist injury, one of golf’s hottest young guns feels ready to blast his way to Major glory.

Three-time Open champion Nick Faldo reckons that with Woods an absentee, the Open is right there for the taking.

And McDowell has as good a chance as anyone of winning the title on links terrain that suits him to a tee.

Faldo said: "With Tiger not playing this week the door has been opened and it is a great opportunity for the young players to start looking around to see who is going to step up and steal a few majors before Tiger returns.

“I feel that this could be a great week for European golf this week. I feel that Sergio will be inspired with his friend Nadal winning Wimbledon.

“He was inspired by losing in the final to Federer last year and if Padraig can recover from the injury he is going to be seriously inspired after last year.”

England’s Lee Westwood is playing the best golf of his life, but McDowell has the links pedigree to join fellow Portrush man Fred Daly on the list of Open winners.

And while he just won the Scottish Open and will be playing his fifth event on the trot, he feels fresh and raring to go on one of his favourite links courses.

McDowell said: “I've been feeling very fresh mentally and physically, and it's been great to kind of keep going and have some really consistent golf at this time of the season because it's busy.

“This is the time of the year when guys start hitting the wall. It really is easy to play yourself into a bit of a tizzy at this point of the season with everyone playing so much.

"But frankly, I've managed to schedule myself really well to where I feel like I'm very fresh at this point.”

No-one has ever won at Loch Lomond and gone on to win the Open the following week.

But McDowell would love to be the first man to pull it off and with 25mph winds ripping across the links, he has every chance of making history.

He said: “With no Tiger Woods in the field this week that obviously helps everyone's chances in general, but it would be great to be the first man to do that.

“Hopefully I've left something in the tank a little bit. It's going to be a long, tough weekend if it keeps blowing like this. It's going to be a tough test but I am up for it.

"I love the Open and I am playing well. I've led it before as well and I think I'm a much better player than I was back in 06."

Spanish ace Garcia is the bookies favourite to lift the title and erase the memories of last year’s painful play-off defeat to Harrington at Carnoustie with Westwood, the 2004 champion Ernie Els and even Phil Mickelson waiting in the wings.

There is also a chance that Harrington could overcome his injury and contend again, despite the fact that he has yet to hit a shot out of the rough.

He said: “I’ve done this before, in terms of having a poor preparation. The preparation I’ve had is as good as I could do. I won’t have any hang ups over it. I hope to go and play and when I do I hope to see all the shots."