McDowell continues road trip in Canada

Graeme McDowell will be seeking yet another national open title in Canada. Picture Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ieGraeme McDowell might have won three times already this season but apart from some regrets about his disappointing performances in the majors, the popular Portriush man has probalby walked away from people brandishing microphones and tape recorders wishing he wasn’t such a prolific sound-bite machine.

After inadvertently dissing the Scottish Open in an attempt to throw light on the difficulties the top players face when trying to combine their PGA Tour careers with support for Europe, he threw more petrol on the fire at The Open.

Again trying to sound reasonable in his criticisms, he generally complained about what he felt was over-enthusiastic policing of slow play at Muirfield and then let it be known that he wasn’t a huge fan of the way the bunkers had been set up either.

When you don’t play the Scottish Open and perform below average at The Open, it all sounds like sour grapes, which is exactly the impression that McDowell was keen not to give.

However, with one major still to go this year, not to mention the FedEx Cup playoffs and the finale to the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, he’s less worried about his image and more concerned about getting ready for a big finish to what has already been a standout year.

That said, he admits that he’s only playing the Canadian Open because he’s an ambassador for the sponsors RBC.

But he did his best to talk up one of golf’s great national titles just days after admitting “it’s a corporate commitment…. not ideal from a scheduling point of view.”

“I’ve been very lucky in my career to win a lot of national opens,” he said after the Pro-Am at Glen Abbey, just outside Toronto.

“I’ve won the Scottish Open, the Italian Open, the Welsh Open, the US Open, the Korean Open [Ballantines].. the French Open a few weeks ago. National championships are very, very special and we should never forget that.”

With a prize fund of $5.6m, it’s a middle order event on the PGA Tour - the equivalent of an Irish Open. But McDowell would still love to follow in the footsteps of the legends such as Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods by adding his name to the list of champions. After all, Jack Nicklaus never pulled it off, though he did manage seven runner-up finishes.

“Purse? Without even looking at purses, the prestige and history and tradition, names on a trophy - it’s great to come to a tournament like this one which has such a strong sense of identity and it would be great one to add your name to.”

The 2010 US Open champion has already made a great start to his association with RBC, winning the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head earlier this season. Needless to say, he had nothing but good things to say about Canada.

“I’ve had an amazing reception the last couple of days,” he said. “I’ve met more people from Northern Ireland than I generally do when I am in Northern Ireland.

“It has been cool and the golf course is fantastic. The rough is very gnarly, you’ve got to keep the ball in play and control your ball on a tricky golf course. There’s a great field and I am just excited to be here.”

McDowell, who turns 34 next Tuesday, will be hoping that his swing is back on plane after a week battling the left side of the golf course at Muirifeld.

The Canadian Open will be the fifth of seven events he’s playing in a nine-week stretch that ends with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron next week followed by the US PGA at Oak Hill. Needless to say, he’s not planning to overdo it in Canada beyond competing.

“I’ve got to pace myself next week,” he said at Muirfield, where he came home a disappointing 58th. “The Canadian Open, it’s a corporate commitment. I’m an RBC ambassador, and I’m playing there. And as part of that deal, you know. It’s not ideal from a scheduling point of view.

“But it gets me over to that side of the pond and I’m looking forward to it. Preparing well for the US PGA and it’s supposed to be a great course and great event. There’s a lot of elements involved in scheduling, and it’s a very important thing to get right.”

Selected past winners of the Canadian Open

1931 Walter Hagen 292 Mississauga

1938 Sam Snead 277 Mississauga

1940 Sam Snead 281 Scarborough

1941 Sam Snead 274 Lambton

1945 Byron Nelson 280 Thornhill

1947 Bobby Locke 268 Scarborough

1955 Arnold Palmer 265 Weston

1959 Doug Ford 276 Islesmere

1964 Kel Nagle 277 Pinegrove

1965 Gene Littler 273 Mississauga

1967 Billy Casper 279 Montreal Municipal

1968 Bob Charles 274 St. Georges

1969 Tommy Aaron 275 Pinegrove

1971 Lee Trevino 275 Richelieu Valley

1973 Tom Weiskopf 278 Richelieu Valley

1975 Tom Weiskopf 274 Royal Montreal

1977 Lee Trevino 280 Glen Abbey

1979 Lee Trevino 281 Glen Abbey

1984 Greg Norman 278 Glen Abbey

1985 Curtis Strange 279 Glen Abbey

1987 Curtis Strange 276 Glen Abbey

1989 Steve Jones 271 Glen Abbey

1991 Nick Price 273 Glen Abbey

1992 Greg Norman 280 Glen Abbey

1994 Nick Price 275 Glen Abbey

1995 Mark O’Meara 274 Glen Abbey

1997 Steve Jones 275 Royal Montreal

1999 Hal Sutton 275 Glen Abbey

2000 Tiger Woods 266 Glen Abbey

2003 Bob Tway 272 Hamilton

2004 Vijay Singh 275 Glen Abbey

2005 Mark Calcavecchia 275 Shaughnessy

2006 Jim Furyk 266 Hamilton

2007 Jim Furyk 268 Angus Glen North