GRAEME McDowell’s success at the Open de France was not just a long-awaited and deserved personal triumph, it was also brilliant news for the European Ryder Cup team.
The Northern Irishman remarked afterwards that he had “really, really needed” that win, and he was right. Having won three times last season, this was his first title for 12 months, back at the scene of his last victory.
Even a Major winner like McDowell does not want to rely on a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. Sunday’s result in Paris means he is now firmly back in the hunt for automatic qualification, and that is good news too for European captain Paul McGinley, who would probably rather not have to use one of his three discretionary selections on such a good player.
Big names now head to one of the game’s greatest links courses for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which starts on Thursday.
Phil Mickelson is set to defend his title but has gone almost a year without a win and will not be on familiar terrain, as the tournament has moved from Castle Stuart to Royal Aberdeen for 2014. All links courses are unique so this presents an entirely different challenge, but it is very special and will offer players fantastic preparation for next week’s Open at Royal Liverpool.
Home hopes will rest on Stephen Gallacher, who could do with doing a McDowell to lift his Ryder Cup prospects, while Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood will also be starting to feel the pressure. Although some of them are big events with lots of points on offer, there are only eight qualifying tournaments left before the cut-off for September’s contest. Poulter may even thrive on that scenario.
Finally, I was delighted to see former European Tour fixture and Major winner Angel Cabrera roll back the years to win his first regular PGA Tour event at the Greenbrier Classic.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer, a vice-captain to current European skipper Paul McGinley, and a media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam