GRAEME McDOWELL willput the finishing touches tohis Ryder Cup preparations this week after making an encouraging return to action.
The US Open champion returned from a month off with a solid performance in the Austrian Open, finishing 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 Portrush man. With a week remaining before Colin Montgomerie’s team convene at Celtic Manor ahead of the match against the United States, McDowell isoptimistic he is in the sort of form which can make him a mainstay.
“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. 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.”
McDowell said he sympathised with the big names who missed out.
“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 inspiringleader.
“He’s going to be a great captain. He’s very meticulous with his preparation,” he said.
“He wants us there nice and early on Monday and we’ll be very much ready come Friday.”
McDowell’s Celtic Manor team-mate Miguel Angel Jimenez continued nicely from his European Masters victory a fortnight ago and two top-10 finishes before that with a tie for 15th in Austria after finishing on nine under par.
Hoping for similar form this week will be Sweden’s Peter Hanson and captain’s pick Pádraig Harrington, who both play the Vivendi Trophy in Paris on the European Tour, while after a down week on the PGA Tour in America, nine of Corey Pavin’s USA team as well as European wild card Luke Donald are among the 30-man field for the FedEx Cup finale event, The Tour Championship at East Lake nearAtlanta, Georgia.
There is a prize fund of $US7.5m (€5.7m) with $1.3m (€993,000) for the champion and should any one of the current five leaders, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman, Steve Stricker and Paul Casey, win the event, they will pick up the FedEx Cup bonus of $10m (€7.63m).
European stars Donald, 7th, and Justin Rose, 13th, could also depart with the jackpot were they to come out on top and other results fell their way.
Three of Pavin’s four wild cards, Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler, failed to make the cut, as did European team members Harrington, McIlroy and Ian Poulter, all of whom fell by the wayside at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Chicago two weeks ago.
Poulter was due in Atlanta yesterday regardless, filming a commercial for Titleist but he and fellow Euros Ross Fisher, Edoardo Molinari, his brother Francesco Molinari and Martin Kaymer will be preparing in non-competitive mode ahead of next week’s 38th Ryder Cup.
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