McHenry a dark horse in Dunhill Cup race

 

John McHenry's extraordinary season could yet culminate with him making his Dunhill Cup debut in October at St Andrews.

McHenry, who plays in the German Open in Berlin, which starts today, is a rank outsider but not out of the running for an Ireland team place at St Andrews. He began the season on the less-than-lucrative Canadian Tour, but his third place in the Murphy's Irish Open changed everything and led directly to his invitation to this tournament.

The two places in the Irish Dunhill team not already filled will be decided after this event at the Nick Faldo-designed course near Berlin in the old East Germany. Darren Clarke, whose wife Heather gave birth to a 7 lbs 4 oz boy on Monday, is already in the Irish team because of his earnings so far this season.

Paul McGinley is almost home and dry, with £128,000 banked in Tour earnings. Padraig Harrington is on £101,084, while Philip Walton has £88,936. All are at the Berlin Sporting Club this week. So now is McHenry, who has £58,246. Top prize in the German Open is £116,660.

McHenry refuses to get carried away, however. "It is like the dream going on, but I won't be daydreaming about the Dunhill Cup, just getting on with it and playing the best I can. If at the end of it I get a great result here and the result of that is a Dunhill Cup place, then that would be just fantastic.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is still just part of a re-learning curve. I'm very grateful for the European Tour getting me this place this week and I've got an invitation to the Smurfit European Open. I just want to perform at my best now I'm playing at the top again."

McHenry has not played a competitive round since his battling weekend at the Loch Lomond Invitational last month assured him of a European Tour card next year, so he will have enough to do today to get back into the swing.

"I've no idea how I'll play because I've taken a much-needed break with my family after all the comings and goings of playing in Canada and competing at top level on the European Tour," he said. "One thing in my favour, though, is that I'm one of the few players who've played here before. It's a great course. I can only remember making the cut as far as my performance is concerned, but I can remember that you have to drive very straight and think your way around."

Paul McGinley's brother Michael will stand in as his caddie, and they will be playing alongside the top attraction this week, Bernhard Langer. Langer limbers up for the US PGA Championship and tries to win his sixth German Open title before setting off for Seattle.

For Paul McGinley it is a time of great change. Not only has he parted company with his longstanding caddie "Edinburgh Jimmy" Rae, but also with his coach of seven years, Bob Torrance.

"Bob's been great and helped me with my two wins but I needed a change," said McGinley, who has switched to his management's teacher Peter Cowen, who works with Clarke and Lee Westwood. "I want to work more on my short game and try to better my top-10 to top-15 finishes of late."

Ironically, McGinley plays with Bob Torrance's son Sam Torrance today, as the veteran Scot makes his bid to get into his country's Dunhill Cup team.

Raymond Burns, David Higgins and Francis Howley have to carry on the fight to retain their tour cards, with tournaments running out. Eamonn Darcy completes the Irish contingent. He is on the brink of ensuring a card for next year without having to rely on the all-time money-list.