Portrush man Graeme McDowell earns Open spot

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Despite a nervy finish, Graeme McDowell earned a qualifying spot for the The Open in his hometown of Portrush next month

Graeme McDowell stole a huge amount of the spotlight in the lead up to Rory McIlroy's victory at the RBC Canadian Open for one particular reason: If he could finish inside the top 10, he had a chance of qualifying for The Open Championship in July. 

This year, the Open is being played in McDowell's hometown of Royal Portrush - at the famous course he knows exceptionally well, and his brother works at.

It was something that had played on his mind all year, and he got the job done on Sunday - holing a 29 foot par-putt on the last to secure his place with a final round two-under 68 to finish tied 8th with Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson. 

“I think I had reasonable belief in myself that I was going to be able to take care of it one of these weeks. Obviously as the pressure started to build, it was going to be more difficult as it went along,” said McDowell.

“Obviously very proud to have got one of the Open Championship spots and get that little monkey off my back and let me go and play some golf the next few weeks.”

But it was a story that nearly wasn't. The 2010 U.S Open champion thought he needed a birdie to be safe, and when he was left to hack out of the rough on the 17th and failed to make a four, he was left feeling despondent. 

"When I missed the fairway on 17 and didn't make 4 there I was pretty despondent walking to the 18th tee. I knew that 18, it's such is difficult tee shot and I didn't hit a very good one," he said.

After another drive in to the rough on 18, the 39-year-old gave himself a tough chance to make a much-needed par after advancing his ball in to the rough 66 yards from the green. 

"Left myself no pitch shot,"McDowell said. "My caddie is trying to do the math as we walk up to 18 green. He's thinking 5 may be good enough. Basically said, don't mess around with a chip shot. Give yourself a look at 4."

He hit his third shot to 29 feet and the putt, in his own words, should not have been makeable. 

"The putt was not makable, no," he continued. "It was literally a 1 and 10. It had 12 feet of break on it. It was ridiculously tough putt to make. Just fancied it, I saw it, liked the way it looked, and when I saw it go in it was a huge relief.

"Obviously at that point I still didn't know if I was guaranteed to be in, but I knew that 4 gave me more of a chance than 5."

He needn't have worried. In the end, McDowell's 68 was good enough to grab one of the Open spots, along with Canadian native Adam Hadwin, who finished sixth. 

Inside our new issue: McDowell's guide to Portrush