Victory puts McDowell on brink of Ryder team - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Victory puts McDowell on brink of Ryder team

The biggest win of Graeme McDowell's career, secured here yesterday on the sort of madcap final day that has been a feature of recent Scottish Opens, will boost his bank account by a cool half-million quid. Yet the cash was a secondary consideration as the 28-year-old Northern Irishman sank his final par putt on a glorious Argyll afternoon. Of utmost value is the virtual certainty that he will represent Europe in his first Ryder Cup in September.

The winner's cheque – £500,000 – catapults McDowell to sixth place in the Ryder Cup standings. Only the most freakishly improbable sequence of results by other golfers between now and 31 August will deny him a shot at the USA in September as part of Nick Faldo's line-up in Valhalla.

It is that knowledge that will have him bounding from his bed this morning with a spring in his step that he hopes will also provide momentum for this week's Open at Royal Birkdale.

"It's the biggest tournament in the world coming up and I'm going to go in now with a chilled-out approach," he said. "Hopefully I've still got something left in the tank."

Of the Ryder Cup, he said: "It hasn't really sunk it. This is a massive door-opener. A massive step. The Ryder Cup for me is up there with the majors. I've desperately, desperately wanted to be part of that for as long as I can remember.

"It's a dream come true. I refused an invitation last week at the European Open to get measured up for the Ryder Cup clothing in case I made it, but maybe next time I'm asked I won't turn it down." McDowell started yesterday as the joint leader on 10-under-par with England's Simon Khan, and carded a three-under-par 68 to finish on 13-under for the tournament.

Second place went to South Africa's James Kingston, whose 66 saw him finish on 11-under, with Australia's Richard Green and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez (both carding 69s) on 10-under.

Khan's afternoon was the rollercoaster tale of the day, a day that ended, thankfully for him, with a nine-under-par overall score of 275, good enough for fifth place and, crucially, a berth at Royal Birkdale as the highest non-exempt finisher here.

The bare statistics of Khan's 72 yesterday and his top-five finish tell you nothing about the dramatic twists and turns of the final seven holes. After the 36-year-old from Essex and McDowell left the par-three 11th, Khan having birdied it with a 20-foot putt and McDowell having made par, Khan was two strokes clear in the tournament on 13-under, against McDowell's 11-under. But Khan double-bogeyed the 12th to fall back to 11-under, the same as McDowell, who made par. Within minutes Green made a birdie up ahead to go to 11-under too, as did Kingston, within seconds, at the 17th.

A four-way share for the lead screamed "play-off" but that was to underestimate McDowell's poise and served to prematurely flatter Khan. McDowell then made three birdies. At the 13th he hit a bump and run that had him saying to his caddie: "Who says Loch Lomond isn't ideal preparation for The Open?"

He then birdied the 14th and the 15th, where the decisive blow on the hole and of the tournament was a peachy nine-iron second shot to within three feet of the pin. The subsequent putt moved McDowell to 14-under while Khan went par, birdie, bogey on 13, 14 and 15.

It was McDowell's tournament from there on in, but Khan still had the small matter of clinching the highest non-exempt spot, something that was in doubt when his second shot went awry on the 18th and into the rough. If he had bogeyed the last, the non-exempt place for The Open would have gone to Scotland's Stephen Gallacher (nephew of Bernard), who ended his own Open with a magnificent day's best of 64 for eight-under-par overall. But Khan's third shot was composure personified under huge pressure, and it landed within inches of the hole for an easy tap-in for par, and a place at Royal Birkdale.

McDowell's victory was his fourth on the European Tour in his 146th event, and his second of the season following the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea in March.

He has also won in Sweden (in 2002) and Italy (in 2004) but never by more than one shot and twice before in play-offs.

"This was my first win where I've actually been able to enjoy coming down the last," said McDowell, schooled for years at the University of Alabama, where he had a collegiate record better than Luke Donald and Tiger Woods. Chances are that neither will be at the Ryder Cup. He will.

Scottish Open final-round scores

(GB or Irl unless stated): 271 G McDowell 67 70 66 68. 273 J Kingston (SA) 70 70 67 66. 274 M A Jimenez (Sp) 68 69 68 69; R Green (Aus) 67 68 70 69. 275 S Khan 69 66 68 72. 276 F Molinari (It) 69 68 72 67; S Gallacher 72 68 72 64; R Dinwiddie 68 68 71 69. 277 J M Singh (Ind) 68 68 69 72; Paul Lawrie 68 67 72 70; E Els (SA) 72 66 70 69; O Wilson 71 66 71 69; A Quiros (Sp) 69 70 74 64. 278 C Cevaer (Fr) 70 67 70 71; P Sjoland (Swe) 67 71 71 69; P Hedblom (Swe) 70 68 72 68; O Fisher 68 69 70 71; A McLardy (SA) 70 70 69 69. 279 F Andersson Hed (Swe) 70 67 69 73; A Wall 70 70 69 70; R McIlroy 70 69 68 72; D McGrane 68 66 76 69; G Murphy 68 70 72 69; L Westwood 67 69 70 73. 280 R Fisher 68 69 68 75; A Scott (Aus) 72 66 68 74; D Lynn 69 67 70 74; J Bickerton 66 71 72 71; T Jaidee (Thai) 64 71 71 74; I Poulter 69 69 68 74; J-F Lucquin (Fr) 72 65 71 72; G Havret (Fr) 69 70 72 69. 281 H Otto (SA) 71 69 71 70; M Erlandsson (Swe) 67 70 77 67; P Edberg (Swe) 68 70 74 69; H Stenson (Swe) 67 69 72 73; S Wakefield 71 68 72 70. 282 P Mickelson (US) 71 67 71 73; A Noren (Swe) 64 73 71 74; D Howell 69 70 70 73; S Kjeldsen (Den) 73 66 74 69; A Cabrera (Arg) 65 68 78 71; M Brown (US) 73 66 71 72. 283 T Bjorn (Den) 67 68 75 73; A Canizares (Sp) 73 67 71 72; M Foster 68 70 73 72; M Mamat (Sing) 69 70 73 71; J Edfors (Swe) 67 71 76 69. 284 M Lafeber (Neth) 67 70 76 71; A Romero (Arg) 68 71 75 70. 285 G Houston 66 71 74 74; A Oldcorn 71 69 72 73; A Forsyth 73 67 72 73; M Millar (Aus) 72 64 77 72; G Bourdy (Fr) 70 68 72 75; P McGinley 70 70 72 73; R McGowan 69 70 74 72. 287 D Dixon 68 70 75 74; T Whitehouse 68 71 75 73; Peter Lawrie 71 68 77 71. 288 D Drysdale 68 71 74 75; S Strange (Aus) 70 68 77 73. 289 I Pyman 69 71 76 73; C Rodiles (Sp) 69 70 75 7. 292 J-F Remesy (Fr) 70 68 75 79.

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