The R&A have told Graeme McDowell he won't be handed a place in his hometown Open. We argue for and against his case
The Open, as we’re sure you know, will be held in Royal Portrush this year – and Graeme McDowell, who was born in the town, is yet to qualify.
The R&A confirmed this week that he will not be handed a special exemption and that he must qualify through the usual routes.
If our maths are right, McDowell needs to either win the US Open (he’s done it at Pebble before against all the odds), finish in the top 10 of the Canadian Open (and hope he’s one of three that haven’t already qualified), finish in the top 10 of the Valderrama Masters (three spots up for grabs), top 8 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic (two spots), or top 10 at the Irish or Scottish Opens (three spots). Or, of course, go through Final Qualifying.
So is this the right decision? Alex Perry and Joe Hughes argue for and against the popular Northern Irishman’s case…
‘Who benefits from Graeme McDowell not being there?’
The R&A don’t do special exemptions for the Open, writes Alex Perry. Well, apart from that time they granted Tom Watson an extra year so he could play at St Andrews again in 2015.
I appreciate what the R&A are trying to do and it’s great that so many players from far and wide come to play in our finest spectacle, but for the love of god it’s Graeme McDowell. He’s a former major champion, a 10-time European Tour winner, four-time PGA Tour winner, and spent almost half a year in the world’s top 10, including several at a career-high 4th. AND HE WAS BORN IN PORTRUSH.
Who benefits from McDowell not being there? The locals would love it, those watching on at home would love it, and miss the cut or win, it would make a wonderful story. I quite like that golf’s oldest major is the only one of the four that doesn’t dish out special exemptions – apart from that time they granted Tom Watson an extra year so he could play at St Andrews again in 2015 – but this just smacks of the R&A making a point and it’s nothing short of a PR disaster for the governing body.
As I’ve already mentioned, a handful of players can make it in through finishing in the top 10 of a low-ranking tour event. Given the usual standard of these fields, it’s hardly household names getting the nod.
Let’s not forget that McDowell has actually won on the PGA Tour this year.
Or that the R&A granted Tom Watson an extra year so he could play at St Andrews again in 2015.
‘It would set a dangerous precedent’
If a player can’t do what it takes to qualify like everybody else, then that player simply shouldn’t be in the field, writes Joe Hughes.
The reason McDowell isn’t in the 148th Open in his hometown of Portrush is because he just hasn’t played well enough in recent times to warrant a place.
His PGA Tour win in the Dominican Republic was a nice performance but, realistically, he probably wouldn’t have won if it was a full-strength field. Should that warrant him being given a place at the top table?
If the R&A grant McDowell a special exemption to the Open it will open a whole can of worms, not to mention set a dangerous precedent. McDowell was born in Portrush? So what? So were loads of golfers not playing in the Open.
I don’t think he’ll really add anything significant to the event. If he doesn’t qualify, so be it.
While I’m at it, the Masters, PGA Championship and US Open shouldn’t have special exemptions either – but that’s for another day…