• French Open

McDowell retains French Open title

ESPN staff
July 6, 2014
Graeme McDowell poses with the trophy alongside his parents Marian and Kenny © Getty Images

Graeme McDowell clawed back an eight-shot deficit to retain his French Open title as Kevin Stadler imploded on the front nine in the final round at Le Golf National.

It is the first time in his career that McDowell has successfully defended a tournament, as he produced a brilliant final-round 67 in what were miserable conditions in Paris.

McDowell's was the joint-lowest round of the day though he still had plenty of help from American Stadler, whose four-shot overnight lead disappeared with a front nine of 41.

Stadler bounced back with birdies on the 14th and 16th holes to close within one shot of McDowell, who had made a fifth birdie of the day on the 16th.

McDowell then dropped his only shot of the day at the last, though Stadler missed a two-foot putt for par on the same hole to hand the Northern Irishman his 10th European Tour title. Had Stadler made the shot, he would have forced a play-off - indeed, McDowell had already left the recording area to preparing for extra holes.

Stadler instead ended with a 76 and had to settle for a share of second place with Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (72).

"I'm very surprised," said McDowell. "Midway through my second glass of red wine last night, when I was very disappointed with my back-nine performance on Saturday, I really didn't think I'd be a) standing here with an opportunity to be in a play-off and b) with a trophy in my hands.

"I feel very fortunate. Kevin Stadler is a great, great player. I literally gave him that putt on the last green. I didn't expect him to miss that. It's not really the way you like to win. I was ready to go for the play-off, but I'll take it and run. I really needed this victory. It's a special one for me. It's pretty timely. There's a busy summer ahead and this a really good kickstart to the summer."

McDowell has played a lighter schedule this season, even skipping the PGA Championship at Wentworth in a bid to to leave himself fresher for the second half of the year.

"It's a good decision now, but I have to say myself and my team were starting to question it," former US Open champion McDowell added. "But my body has probably never been in as good a shape at this point in the season coming into two major championships, the FedEx Cup play-offs and hopefully the Ryder Cup.

"I'm very proud to defend my first title ever and this is the boost I needed on many fronts, especially the Ryder Cup [the win takes him 10th on the European points list]."

"I was at Hoylake a couple of weeks ago," added McDowell, who had led after the first round of the Open that last time it was held at Hoylake in 2006. "I think it's my type of set-up. You really have to find fairways off the tee and there are big flat greens where you can hole some putts. This is a nice confidence booster and I will be back at Hoylake next Sunday ready to go."

French Open - final leaderboard

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