Focused Graeme McDowell pushing for Ryder Cup spot

Graeme McDowell is not a man given to pushing panic buttons but he knows that the next we weeks are crucial if he is to keep up his amazing Ryder Cup record intact.

The Portrush star, 36, is the only current European player to qualify automatically for the last four Ryder Cup teams.

And he admits that meeting up with skipper Darren Clarke for a gathering of Ryder Cup veterans at Sawgrass last week was all the inspiration he needed to end a frustrating run of four missed cuts in five starts with a Top 10 finish in The Players.

All he needs is a Top 5 finish around the Palmer Ryder Cup Course in this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to ease his way into the automatic qualifying spots for Clarke’s side via the world points list.

“I feel like it was that nice little bit of motivation that I needed, and it goes without saying that I want to be on the team,” McDowell said of last week’s gathering of Ryder Cup veterans and potential rookies at Sawgrass.

McDowell said: “Of course I’d love to be part of the team. We had a little get together last week at The Players.

“Darren did sort of a veteran’s dinner on the Tuesday night, and it was inspiring to visualise yourself at Hazeltine and being part of the team and what it’s going to feel like in the team room.”

With three wildcards for grabs, McDowell knows he has a great chance of a call up if he fails to make the side on merit. But even though he has yet to qualify for The Open, he looks likely to make the field for Royal Troon via the FedEx Cup Top 20 having stopped the rot recently by finishing tied ninth at Sawgrass.

Addressing his mixed start to the season after back to back missed cuts in the Masters and the RBC Heritage, he said: “I was frustrated last year on different levels, because I knew I wasn’t playing well. This year, it’s been frustrating because I am playing well.”

Little wonder he’s keen to kickstart his season in earnest this week and with fellow Ryder Cup veterans such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald also outside the nine automatic places right now, McDowell is keen to make a move.

“I don’t want to be a pick, for sure,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough side to make with so many great young players coming through.

“Looking at Andy Sullivan, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry and Danny Willett, the veterans, as such, are not really performing the way they need to be, myself included, Poults and Westy and Luke and guys like that.”

McDowell hasn’t missed a Ryder Cup as a player since he failed to make the side that hammered the Americans at The K Club 10 years ago.

Recalling how he punished himself by working as a commentator for Five Live and RTÉ that week, McDowell said: “It lit a fire underneath me, and I said to myself, I never want to be on that side of the rope again in the near future. I wanted to play in Ryder Cups, not commentate on them.”

McDowell also believes the Irish Open could act as curtain-raiser for The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Portstewart is hotly tipped to host next year, McDowell is also hopeful that Ballyliffin will get their wish and host the championship the week before The Open in three years’ time.

The Donegal links met with European Tour chief Keith Pelley this week to proposed a joint north-south staging in July 2019 with both Donegal County Council and Strabane-Derry City Council offering financial support.

G-Mac said: “Portstewart is obviously on the radar for next year. I think it’s coming back south again in 2018, and then perhaps back up to the north in 2019 again, and potentially the week before The Open. I think that would be a natural fit.”


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