French Open: McDowell set up for dramatic finish

Cap that: Graeme McDowell salutes the crowd at the end of the third round in Paris. Picture: Getty
Cap that: Graeme McDowell salutes the crowd at the end of the third round in Paris. Picture: Getty
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GRAEME McDOWELL, who has either won or missed the cut in each of his last seven events, has the chance to maintain that odd streak in the final round of the Alstom Open de France today.

McDowell carded a third round of 70 at Le Golf National outside Paris to finish five under par and share the lead with South Africa’s Richard Sterne as the 2018 Ryder Cup venue again proved a tough proposition.

England’s David Howell, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and Australian Richard Green are a shot behind, with Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn only three off the lead despite hitting two tee shots on par threes into water and covering the back nine in 40 in a round of 74.

Only 18 players finished the third round under par and, asked about the prospect of securing a third win of the season on the closing stretch today, McDowell said: “I hadn’t really thought about it but thanks for pointing that out! I hope I have the opportunity. It’s going to be phenomenal come 2018. The last four holes are as dramatic a risk-reward finish as you could imagine with a combination of a natural ampitheatre.

“The 15th and 18th are two phenomenal holes, especially the pin position on 15 today. When the caddie in the group in front put the pin back in the hole on 15 I thought he’d missed the green with it. It looked like it was in the water.”

McDowell, who won the RBC Heritage the week after missing the cut in the Masters and claimed the Volvo World Match Play Championship in May, added: “I played very nicely today and continued on from where I left off on Thursday and Friday.

“This course demands fairways and greens; most do but this one more so. Shots off line get punished heavily. The greens are very firm. I described it earlier this week as a Scottish or Irish links meets the Players Championship at Sawgrass. It’s got the risk-reward with the water and it’s fast and firm like a links course. It’s a great combination.”

McDowell, who stayed on at Carton House to practise – along with compatriot Rory McIlroy – after missing the cut in last week’s Irish Open, added: “It’s been a rough couple of months, a few weekends off to contemplate what’s going on, but it’s done nothing but motivate me to work harder and harder and be more hungry for days like tomorrow so I will be excited and looking forward to it.”