The Open 2019: McDowell hopes to feed off atmosphere at Royal Portrush

Graeme McDowell watches a shot during Wednesday's practice at royal Portrush
Graeme McDowell watches a shot during Wednesday's practice at Royal Portrush

Local hope Graeme McDowell hopes to harness a "Ryder Cup-type atmosphere" when his Open Championship challenge begins in his hometown Portrush on Thursday.

McDowell will tee off at 09:14 BST with 2016 champion Henrik Stenson and Xander Schauffele.

"I'm trying to picture the crowd as a Ryder Cup crowd," said McDowell, 39, on the eve of the championship.

"I need to use that positively and not see it as a negative thing."

McDowell, who will turn 40 in two weeks, believes he can be competitive at Royal Portrush despite all the local expectancy and the fact he missed the cut at the Irish Open and Scottish Open over the last fortnight.

The 2010 US Open champion has risen more than 150 places in the world rankings this year to his current position of 97th - helped by his PGA Tour victory in the Dominican Republic in early March.

Great draw

"In a funny way missing the cut in Scotland last week gave me some extra time to come in here and prepare," he said.

"Now, I'm very much looking forward to the gun going off tomorrow. I've got a great draw and I think it will just be about settling down over the first nine holes tomorrow and trying to make a few birdies."

The narrative around much of McDowell's 2019 campaign surrounded his attempts to qualify for the Open after missing the major in the last two years.

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The four-time Ryder Cup player eventually achieved the goal as he finished in the top 10 at the Canadian Open last month.

"When you're sitting at home watching on TV, it's frustrating," added the Northern Irishman.

"In the middle of last season, I had the conversation with myself and I said: 'Hey, if you continue to play the way you're playing, this game is going to be gone a hell of a lot quicker than you thought'.

"When you're top 20 in the world for years and years the game felt easy.

"Then all of a sudden you're battling to get back into the big events and you're missing cuts and finishing 133rd in the FedEx Cup and you're thinking, 'what happened?'."

McDowell says "facing the demons of my [golfing] mortality" made him determined to savour the remainder of his career.

"I started to get less frustrated and started to enjoy the act of trying to pull myself out of the hole I dug for myself," he said.

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McDowell praises 'phenomenal' Portrush fans

The former world number four admits it will be a "proud moment" when he tees off on Thursday.

"I expected a great welcome but didn't really expect the buzz from the fans and just how genuinely happy and proud they are to have this great golf tournament in this part of the world," he added.

"I was on the first tee yesterday and it felt like there was about 10,000 people there. It was an amazing atmosphere."