McDowell targets rankings surge

PADRAIG Harrington is chief Irish interest at Valderrama this week but the other six players from these shores also have a great deal to play for.

The prize fund of €4.25m and that there is no cut are massive attractions but there are several other incentives as well.

Take Graeme McDowell who is currently in 7th spot in the money list with the total of €1,361,968 and with wins in the Ballantynes and Scottish Open Championships to his credit. Up to a few weeks ago, he was in contention for the Order of Merit title and while his form has dipped, victory here would lift him into the top three and a massive surge up the world rankings. He could be a dark horse over a course where he mixed the brilliant with the mediocre over the closing holes 12 months ago.

At his 71st hole, the dreaded 536 yards 17th with the lake in front of the green, he holed out a seven iron from 190 yards for an albatross two. The remarkable shot sent him into a tie for the lead but the excitement proved his undoing. He carved his drive at the last into the woods on the right and ran up a double six on the way to finishing in a share of third . As his exploits in the Ryder Cup demonstrated, McDowell is a much cooler type of player these days and a repeat of such a mistake at a similarly crucial stage is most unlikely.

Darren Clarke has also won twice this year, in Asia and the Netherlands, and is now 62nd in the world and 11th on the European money list. Winner of this tournament at Montecastillo in 1999, he has planned a very busy finish to the campaign including the HSBC Champions and Barclays Singapore Open over the next fortnight and the Australian and South African Opens in December.

As far as Clarke is concerned, it’s all about world points with the top 50 set to play all the majors in 2008.

It’s been a pretty disappointing season for Paul McGinley, 22nd in the money list and 94th in the world.

But he captured the Volvo here three years ago when he displayed outstanding self control and course management in prevailing under pressure and that will stand to him over the next four days.

Rory McIlroy has yet to win on the European Tour but that day cannot be far away.

While the Volvo might be a step too far just yet, a big finish could see him crash the top 30 (he is 35th) who qualify automatically for the British Open. A solid week should see Damien McGrane, (28th), achieve that aim and the same applies to Peter Lawrie.


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