Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

McDowell shows mettle on back nine

Stays calm and cool to win French Open

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SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France -- Tied with Richard Sterne of South Africa in the final round of the French Open, Graeme McDowell didn't blink on the back nine.

The Northern Irishman made two of his five birdies on the way home to shoot a 4-under 67 Sunday and capture his ninth European Tour title by four strokes.

Sterne, by contrast, made three birdies on the front nine before faltering after the turn with three bogeys to hit a 71 and finish runner-up.

"Thankfully I've managed to learn how to calm my emotions and learn how to respond under pressure, sometimes," McDowell said. "I'm starting to become very comfortable under pressure."

McDowell won the World Match-Play Championship in May, but missed the cut in his three following tournaments. That could have given rise to doubt on the tough Albatross course of Le Golf National, which will host the Ryder Cup in 2018, but he put that aside to finish in style.

"There was no real panic button," McDowell said. "It's been a funny season. Inconsistent, yes. But when it's been good, it's been really good."

Graeme Storm of England, the 2007 winner, and Eduardo De La Riva of Spain shot 69s to share third place, five strokes off the pace.

McDowell played solidly throughout the tournament, making only four bogeys in four rounds. In fifth place after the second round, the 2010 U.S. Open champion started believing in his chances on Saturday.

"The last 12, 13 holes yesterday, I felt the old juices kind of starting to flow again," McDowell said. "I hit a lot of quality shots coming in yesterday, and I got a lot of belief from that. You know, if the putter had been a little hotter perhaps I could have got my nose in front a little earlier in this tournament."

McDowell and Sterne entered the final round with a share of the lead and both broke away from the field by making two birdies for a three-shot advantage after five holes.

McDowell missed short birdie putts on Nos. 6, 11 and 14. But the Northern Irishman could rely on his accurate long game.

"That was the key really," said McDowell, who led the field in hitting greens. "Short game was tricky around this course. The rough was quite sticky and the greens were quite firm and fast. You had to be very careful to leave the ball on the correct side of the pin, and I hit a lot of greens."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 8, 2013 C4

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