Friends first as McDowell relishes McIlroy partnership

MAKE of them what you like, but you simply can’t ignore those amazing Irish golfing buddies Graeme (G-Mac) McDowell and Rory (Wee-Mac) McIlroy.

Having lost to Matt Kuchar and Stewart Cink on Saturday after being one up with two to play, their confidence and self belief might well have taken a battering but that’s not in the nature of either of these two.

They were sent out immediately in the foursomes against Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan and had built up a three-hole advantage after seven when play was halted. There was, of course, still a lot of work to be done for Johnson possess one of the finest short games in the business and Hunter Mahan had gone undefeated in all of his five Ryder Cup matches at Valhalla two years ago.

The Irish pair’s fears were immediately realised when the American opened the proceedings with a birdie to narrow the gap. A few nervous halves followed until the lead was back to three after a birdie at the long 11th. The Americans were still fighting and looked set to narrow the gap again at the 15th where, however, McDowell, who had been the strong member of the partnership for most of the journey, holed a crucial 15-footer for a birdie and a half.

“Yeah, that was kind of big,” McDowell acknowledged. “You know this guy (McIlroy) hit a fabulous pitch to even give me that opportunity. It was a big, big putt.”

It hardly mattered when Johnson judged a 25- footer to perfection for a three at the 16th as McIlroy, with two for the match from 18 feet after a magnificent rescue club tee shot by McDowell, ended the contest by finding the middle of the hole for a two. They were three under for the 17 holes, outstanding foursomes golf on a long and sodden course.

“We walked off the golf course yesterday feeling disappointed because we felt we were winning that game after being in pole position on 16,” said McDowell. “But the crowd really picked us up and we went straight back out and it was a full, blue board. Last night, we felt great. The team room was elated although we were sure Team USA were also going to be fired up and it was important to keep the foot down.

“Monty has been desperate to get us charged up going to the first tee. Between the sessions yesterday, he asked us to go out and do a job. The board was blue but they were not points. I think we went out and did that job.”

Nobody could argue with that even though their record of 1½ points out of three would be even better were it not for the poor finish on Saturday.

“I definitely found out two years ago how difficult it is to win a point in this tournament and we certainly experienced that over the last couple of days,” said McDowell. “To play alongside one of my best friends and someone I regard as one of the best players in the world, is very special.”

McIlroy wasn’t for arguing: “At the start of the week, there was nobody else I wanted to play with. Even in the matches we won or halved, we both played very well. To play with one of your best friends in the Ryder Cup is very, very special.”

The crowd appreciated the rapport, cheering them to the echo and chanting “We have got G-Mac, you have got Big-Mac”.

“I’d certainly rather be G-Mac rather than Big Mac”, mused McDowell, “although I know I could do with losing a bit of weight”.

“Does that make me Wee-Mac”, quipped McIlroy?

Everyone seemed happy to leave it at that.


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