Graeme McDowell will look to write his name into the record books by securing a hat-trick of wins in the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National this week.
McDowell successfully defended a title for the first time in his career 12 months ago and would become the first player since Marcel Dallemagne in 1938 to win Continental Europe’s oldest Open three times in succession with another victory on Sunday.
The Ryder Cup star would also become just the sixth player, after Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, to claim a hat-trick of European Tour titles in the same event.
“Having a chance to win a tournament three times in a row is very special,” McDowell told a pre-tournament press conference yesterday.
“I’ve always enjoyed this golf course, right back in the early days when I would come here.”
McDowell, who won by four shots in 2013, overturned an eight-shot deficit in the final round last year thanks to a brilliant closing 67 despite the wet and windy conditions, although he also had plenty of help from American Kevin Stadler.
Stadler’s four-shot overnight lead disappeared with a front nine of 41, but he battled back well with birdies on the 14th and 16th to pull within one of McDowell, who had moved three ahead with his fifth birdie of the day on the 16th.
With McDowell then dropping his only shot of the day on the 18th after finding heavy rough off the tee, Stadler needed to par the same hole to force a play-off but missed from two feet, just as McDowell left the recording area to prepare for extra holes.
“The two wins were obviously very different,” added 2010 US Open champion McDowell. “You always like to win a tournament, as opposed to being given it to a certain extent.
“So from that point of view, I guess 2013 was a bit more special than 2014. But winning a tournament back to back is also very special.
“In the aftermath, winning last year was very special to me but in terms of the flavour in which it was won, I would have much rather won in a play-off in the end.
“But you take what you’re given, I suppose.”
McDowell has recorded just one top-10 finish on the European Tour in 2015, in the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of February, and missed the cut in the US Open at Chambers Bay in his last event.
The 35-year-old admits there have been welcome distractions in his life since the birth of his first child last September, but insists his game is heading in the right direction.
“Really I have to start the ball rolling again and start that momentum gathering,” McDowell added. “I feel a lot happier where I am mentally now than where I was four or five months ago.
“I know I’m good enough and I know that if I keep doing what I’m doing, things will come back.
“It’s been a lot of fun the last year personally, I wouldn’t change that for anything. I’ve got to get back at it, and I have been getting back at it.
“Momentum was killed a little bit the last couple of weeks, but there’s no better time to start playing well than right now with all the golf ahead of me.”
Le Golf National will host the Ryder Cup in 2018 and the man who holed the winning putt in 2010 and claimed three points from three matches at Gleneagles – beating Jordan Spieth in the singles – believes his prowess at the venue could help to see him involved. McDowell joked: “I’ll be pushing 40, so at least I’ll perhaps be a good call for an invite for a wild card pick.
“If I don’t make the team off my own merit, being a little bit of a course specialist around here, certainly I will be expecting to be part of things. I think the fact the Ryder Cup is coming here in 2018… it legitimises how good this golf course is.”