Graeme McDowell, runner-up at the US Open a fortnight ago, does not want to be swept up by what is happening in his home town this week.
Portrush stages the first Irish Open in Northern Ireland for 59 years, but McDowell said on Wednesday: “It would be easy to get lost in the whole emotion of it. I want to enjoy it, but I want to enjoy it at the business end of things on Sunday.
“I would rate winning this just outside the majors. It’s about winning in front of your home fans. Northern Ireland has had its problems, but the town’s buzzing and there’s a sense of pride to see this great event here.”
After narrowly missing out to Webb Simpson two weeks ago at The Olympic Club, McDowell has certainly received a welcome boost from returning to his homeland.
“When I got here Monday morning, just driving to the golf course I got a sense of pride to see this great event here,” he added.
“It’s been a great run the last couple of years for Northern Irish golf, and I guess to be part of the reason why this tournament is here is very humbling. Growing up in this town, you dream of having a big type of event here, and it’s a culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of people.
“There’s been a huge amount of excitement in the town since the announcement that we were coming here. The town has been buzzing, and there’s been a lot of work done around the area. I think we are all very, very excited.
“Personally, I’m proud to be able to have The European Tour come to my part of the world, and the golf course is it in great condition. The weather forecast wasn’t great this morning, but we got away with it and fingers crossed for a great weekend.
“It’s exciting – 15,000 people out there watching a Pro-Am this morning was incredible. It’s really good for all of the players, and just gives us a sense of what people have thought of what we have achieved the last few years.
“There’s no doubt that people are proud of this golf course and they are proud of this part of the world, and they are coming out in masses to welcome a great European Tour field to this golf course.”