The Northern Irishman won continental Europe’s oldest national golf championship in 2013 and 2014 and a third triumph on Sunday would make him just the second man to achieve the feat.
The last time three-in-a-row happened at the French Open was when home player Marcel Dallemagne won in 1938 – a year ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War.
McDowell, who is coming off a missed cut at the US Open at Chambers Bay late last month, is keenly aware of the challenge ahead of him on what he considers to be one of his favourite layouts.
“It’s changed a lot over the years and become a lot more fair, but still, big emphasis on hitting fairways here and hitting greens,” McDowell said.
“The par threes are some of the toughest par threes we play all year. It’s a great golf course. Always enjoyed coming here, but extra special this year, chasing three in a row, it will be very special.”
This week’s tournament has added resonance for the Ryder Cup star as he struggles to get his game back to where it was when he won the US Open in 2010 and became a regular fixture in the world top 10.
A poor first half of the year has seen his ranking slump to 48th and he is badly in need of a morale-booster ahead of the British Open at St Andrews later this month and the PGA Championship in August.
“Really I have to start the ball rolling again and start that momentum gathering,” he said.??”I feel a lot happier where I am mentally now than where I was four or five months ago.
“You know, look at the world rankings and I’m very conscious of not panicking. I know I’m good enough and I know that if I keep doing what I’m doing, that things will come back.”
McDowell is one of seven members of last year’s triumphant European Ryder Cup team competing in France this week.
Martin Kaymer is a two-time major champion and French Open winner in 2009, Lee Westwood a former world number one, Jamie Donaldson, the player who brought the winning point for Europe at Gleneagles, and Victor Dubuisson the French number one and brightest hope.??
Westwood in particular feels he is long overdue some success at Le National, which will host the Ryder Cup in 2018.
“I’ve come close here in the past,” said Westwood. “I lost in a play-off to Martin Kaymer in 2009 and I’ve had a couple of other top tens over the years.
“It’s been given the Ryder Cup in a few years’ time, as well, so that shows how strong a golf course it is.”
Included in a strong contingent from Asia are emerging Indian star Anirban Lahiri, with two tournament wins under his belt already this year, South Korea’s Byeong-Hun An, who won the European PGA Championship at Wentworth and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who came close last year.