McDowell aiming to reign in Spain

Graeme McDowell goes into today’s first round contest against Sweden’s Robert Karlsson in the Volvo World Match Play Championship at Finca Cortesin near Estepona in Southern Spain hopeful that a change from the regular diet of stroke play to head-to-head confrontations will provide the kick start that his career badly needs.

The 2010 US Open champion and hero of Europe’s Ryder Cup victory over the Americans at Celtic Manor the same year has failed to reproduce that kind of form over the past 18 months. Candid as ever, he makes no attempt to conceal his frustration and realises that unless he gets things going — and quickly, he may well struggle for his place in this year’s Ryder Cup team.

He is currently 7th of the automatic 10 places and even if the worst came to the worst, he might well receive one of captain Jose-Maria Olazabal’s two “wild card” picks. Such a situation, however, doesn’t sit at all well with the 32 year-old Portrush man.

“I don’t want to be a pick because there are going to be four or five really good players who won’t get on the team this year”, he warned. “That’s the reality and I have just got to make sure I am not one of them. I’m on the team at present but there is a hell of a lot more golf to be played and I have got to keep my head down right the way up to the USPGA.

“They are fitting the top 30 players and caddies [for their outfits] at Wentworth next week which is always a buzz and I remember in 2008 I was superstitious and refused to take part. But I did it last time and I will be there this time as well. I definitely want to be a part of the show.”

McDowell defeated Rory McIlroy by 3 and 2 in the last 16 last year before going out in the quarter-finals to the Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts. With precious Ryder Cup and world ranking points at stake, he is hopeful of doing better still on this occasion.

“It was a good game against Rory, I played decently and made some putts”, he recalled. “ Match play has always been a format that I have enjoyed most of my career and especially as an amateur and I have won both of my Ryder Cup singles and Seve Trophy singles. But you can run into the wrong guy any day of the week.”

Like McDowell, Darren Clarke, the second Irishman in the match play field, is hopeful that this week’s tournament worth €2.75million with €700,000 for the winner, will change his fortunes around. His career has been in freefall since his victory in last year’s Open Championship at Royal St Georges and his prospects at Finca Cortesin are not helped by the fact that he doesn’t play at all today and instead faces two matches tomorrow against the English pair Robert Rock and Justin Rose.

Unlike McDowell, he hasn’t been invited to the fitting of uniforms at Wentworth and doesn’t see any reason why he should have been.

“At the moment, I’m not on the list nor would I expect to be”, said Clarke. “I’d have to play an awful lot better before that happens. I have absolutely no right to be considered.”


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