McDowell happy to reprise the 'just-in-caser' role once again


THE UTTER craziness of the Ryder Cup was brought home to Graeme McDowell on the 17th green at Celtic Manor. He’d just beaten Hunter Mahan in the decisive final singles to reclaim the trophy for Europe and the Ulsterman – who earlier that season had secured a breakthrough Major when winning the US Open – looked around to see his caddie, Kenny Comboy, with blood streaming down his face. The bagman had been clipped by a swinging camera in the bedlam as the crowds engulfed the green.

What’s more, Comboy later informed G-Mac he had managed to reach the player’s golf bag just in time. Otherwise, it’s likely the clubs might never have been seen again.

One item which was forgotten about on that Monday evening as he became the central character in the celebrations was the player’s coin marker, which a tweeter earlier this week informed McDowell was the “prized possession” of his friend. “I have a few more replicas, it’s all his,” said McDowell. And, for sure, McDowell has a lot more things to occupy his mind as he heads to Medinah in Chicago for a third appearance in golf’s greatest team event.

McDowell – who failed to make it to the US Tour’s finale in Atlanta – has been recharging batteries for the past fortnight. In accepting that he “switched off” after the US PGA at Kiawah Island last month, McDowell has refocused his mind and refreshed the body ahead of the Ryder Cup. His coach, Pete Cowen, will spend the weekend with him in Orlando, fine-tuning, before flying up to Chicago.

“My game’s in great shape, it was really just a mental thing for me, the FedEx. I really didn’t have that same drive, that same focus or motivation like I’ve had all summer,” he said. “But, certainly, I’m 100 per cent focused for next week.”

If indeed some lethargy set in once the Majors campaign had finished for the season, McDowell – who had four top-12 finishes, including a runner-up finish to Webb Simpson in the US Open – is convinced the high-octane Ryder Cup will provide the perfect antidote.

“There’s nothing about next week that won’t stop me from being ready. It’s just natural energy, natural adrenalin and something a bit different to focus the brain. Guys go into the Ryder Cup tired and find energy. Come Friday morning, there’s no such thing as fatigue.”

McDowell, for sure, has proven up to the task in his two previous Ryder Cups. Having played the media card – on radio and TV – at the match at the K Club in 2006, an experience which only added to his determination to make subsequent teams, McDowell debuted at Valhalla in 2008 – where he claimed 2½ points from four, albeit on the losing team – and then excelled in the anchor role at Celtic Manor.

“At Valhalla in 2008, I was one of the last games and my game became irrelevant, the match was all over before I had a chance to beat Stewart Cink and I feared the same was going to happen to me at Celtic Manor. I feared the Europeans were going to be up there celebrating while I was at the back of the field trying to do my job.

“Little did I know, it played into my favour. was a pretty close scenario, when you’ve got a lot of team-mates staring you down with a couple of holes to go, begging you to get the job done. It’s a pretty scary prospect but I feel the highlight of my career so far was holing that putt on 16 and being able to finish that match off. It’s the highlight of my career, emotionally more than anything, just such a special feeling to share that kind of success with the whole team, to win the Ryder Cup.

“This time around will be interesting come Sunday. What position are we going to be in, will we be leading or will be behind? As a captain, Jose will put his team out on Sunday and it will be very reactive to what we need to accomplish. Going into the last day at Celtic Manor we were ahead so it was a case of putting our top players out first and getting the job done and having a few anchormen at the end just in case. I was a just-in-caser and I happened to get the job done.

“Would I love to play number 12? Yes I would, of course. To be that guy and have that opportunity to do the job is always special. But on Saturday night when we have a whip around the team room I’ll be one of those guys that will say ‘I’ll play wherever you want me to play’. That’s the way I feel about the Ryder Cup, I’ll do whatever’s necessary really.”


The Olympics . . .

“My take on it is that it is four years away. I’m hoping to be in the position where I’ll be selected for one of the teams. What’s my allegiance? I really don’t have one. I sit on the fence because unfortunately that’s where I have to sit. I come from a mixed relation background and I don’t want to upset my mum, I don’t want to upset my dad, I don’t want to upset the Irish people, I don’t want to upset the British people.

“We’re in a very unfortunate position in Northern Ireland in that we kind of have one foot on each team. I feel sorry for Rory in that he is under the spotlight and has been coerced into making some kind of a decision which, let’s be honest, is four years down the road. It’s going to be interesting to see if we have to make that decision, or if the Olympic committee make that decision?

“It’s a tough subject and a horrible subject. I sit on the fence. I will play for whatever team will take me, no doubt about it. You’re going to upset somebody unfortunately when you give allegiance one side or the other and like I say, I’d prefer someone to make that decision for me.”

Rory McIlroy . . .

“He’s the best player on the planet right now, hands down. I look at the Rory McIlroy playing on our team next week as opposed to the Rory McIlroy of two years ago and both are incredibly talented golfers but two years ago he was a rookie . . . I think this time around it’s a case of putting him in top gear and sending him out there.

“I’m hoping to play a few games with Rory but there’s 10 other guys on the team who would love to play with Rory. He’s such a great player he’ll have the crosshairs on his back. He’s a big scalp now and guys will want to play him. He’s stepped up to the plate in the last couple of months and I fully expect him to be on form next week.”

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