McDowell retains French Open title in last-hole drama

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland  after winning the French Open Golf tournament in Paris  (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland after winning the French Open Golf tournament in Paris (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
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Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell will head into the Open Championship buoyed by his first ever successful title defence following a dramatic final round of the Alstom Open de France.

McDowell overturned an eight-shot deficit thanks to a brilliant closing 67 despite the wet and windy conditions at Le Golf National, although he also had plenty of help from American Kevin Stadler.

Stadler’s four-shot overnight lead disappeared with a front nine of 41, but he battled back well with birdies on the 14th and 16th to pull within one of McDowell, who had moved three ahead with his fifth birdie of the day on the 16th.

With McDowell then dropping his only shot of the day on the 18th after finding heavy rough off the tee, Stadler needed to par the 18th to force a play-off but missed from two feet just as McDowell left the recording area to prepare for extra holes.

Stadler’s closing 76 left him in a tie for second with Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who dropped five shots in the first four holes but played the remainder in four under for a 72.

“I’m very surprised,” McDowell said after claiming his 10th European Tour title. “Midway through my second glass of red wine on Saturday night, when I was very disappointed with my back-nine performance, 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 player. I didn’t expect him to miss that.”

Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick finished joint 26th, adding a 72 to his earlier round scores of 69, 74 and 74.