McDowell stays in the zone

McDowell stays in the zone

Graeme McDowell will put the finishing touches to his Ryder Cup preparations this week after making an encouraging return to action.

McDowell returned from a month off with a solid performance in the Austrian Open, where he finished in a share of third place.

His previous tournament was the US PGA Championship, where rounds of 76 and 71 meant he missed the cut, but four rounds under 70 in Atzenbrugg pleased the Northern Irishman, this year’s US Open winner.

And with a week remaining before Colin Montgomerie’s European team convene at Celtic Manor ahead of the match against the United States, McDowell is optimistic he is running into the sort of form which can make him a mainstay of the team.

“I’m fired up, no doubt about it,” McDowell said. “I’ve got a few days of practice lined up this coming week. Then it’s down to Celtic Manor on the Monday and it’s one of those weeks when you want to take your game with you to the Ryder Cup.

“It’s a busy week, it’s tough to go finding it somewhere, and I’m hoping to be a big part of the team.”

He told www.europeantour.com: “The team is very impressive. You’ve just got to look at the wins and you’ve just got to look at the world rankings. It’s got to be one of the best European Ryder Cup teams ever assembled.

“One of my big goals this year was to be part of that and I’ve achieved that and I definitely want to go there and perform.”

Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara won his second European Tour title and saved his tour card with victory in Austria, after getting the better of England’s David Lynn in a play-off.

Lara had missed nine successive cuts before finishing fourth at last week’s KLM Open.

But the 33-year-old from Valencia surged up the leaderboard from eighth place overnight after recording 10 birdies and two bogeys in his eight-under-par round of 64.

That meant he finished tied on 17-under 271 for the tournament with Stoke-based Lynn, who carded 68, as the pair overtook overnight leader Danny Willett who finished with three successive bogeys.

Lara held his nerve when the pair played the 18th again to decide the victor, with par enough for the title after Lynn hit a loose tee shot.

McDowell was the big draw in the field, and should be a key figure in Wales next week.

He sympathises with the big names who missed out on selection to Montgomerie’s team.

“There’s a couple of players who really deserve to make the team, Paul Casey and Justin Rose being two of those guys,” McDowell said.

“Unfortunately we just ran out of space this year. Guys played their way on to the team like Peter Hanson and Edoardo Molinari.”

Ahead of the clash with Corey Pavin’s team, McDowell backed European captain Montgomerie to prove an inspiring leader.

“He’s going to be a great captain. He’s very meticulous with his preparation,” McDowell said. “He wants us there nice and early on Monday and we’ll be very much ready come Friday.”

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