Graeme McDowell: NI golfer ties for eighth at Canadian Open to seal a place at Royal Portrush

Graeme McDowell
McDowell was the UK's first winner of a men's major in the 21st century

Graeme McDowell has sealed a place in his hometown Open at Royal Portrush by finishing tied for eighth at the Canadian Open.

The Portrush man drained a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole on Sunday to ensure he will be playing in The Open Championship in July.

McDowell's fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy won the title.

The 39-year-old said last month that he would find it difficult to attend the Portrush event if he was not playing.

Speaking to BBC Sport NI, McDowell had hinted that he may even have needed an exemption from the R&A to play in the tournament.

"I feel hugely relieved," said McDowell after his eighth-place finish.

"Just to play a small part in getting The Open back to Royal Portrush was one of the prouder moments in my career and it would have been extremely bittersweet for me not to be playing in the field.

"I had every belief in myself to get qualifying done over the next three or four weeks and it was great to get it done in week one. I can now focus on getting myself ready for The Open rather than battling for qualifying spots.

"I haven't played the course much since the new holes were created so now I'll plan a little recce mission to play the course over the coming weeks.

"It's going to feel epic on that first tee. The fans are going to offer huge support and they are excited to have the best players in the world come to Portrush. It's going to be very special."

McDowell finished 10 under for the tournament on Sunday after a final round of 68, which followed earlier rounds of 65, 67 and 70.

Needing to finish in the top 10 to secure a place at The Open, McDowell had to hole the long-range putt after missing the fairway on the 18th hole.

He will now take part in the US Open next week at Pebble Beach, where he lifted his only major title in 2010.