Sport Golf

Sunday 11 December 2016

Ireland duo 'have a shot' in World bid

Published 23/11/2016 | 02:30

Scotland’s Duncan Stewart and Russell Knox will tee off in the opening round of the World Cup alongside Ireland pair Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry at Kingston Heath in Melbourne. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Scotland’s Duncan Stewart and Russell Knox will tee off in the opening round of the World Cup alongside Ireland pair Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry at Kingston Heath in Melbourne. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

World Cup of Golf competitors Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry are inspired by the achievements of renowned Irish winners for the 58th staging of this prestigious event at Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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The late, great Christy O'Connor Senior and Harry Bradshaw had the distinction of forming the first team from this island to become world-beaters in Mexico in 1958.

Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley ended a 39-year wait for a repeat victory by taking the top spot at Kiawah Island in 1997.

Can Lowry and McDowell join their illustrious predecessors as champions this week?

They hope so. They believe that between them they have the skill set, the determination and the chemistry to make a strong challenge for the title.

McDowell is the senior partner of the team, with four previous World Cup appearances on his record since his debut in the competition in 2008.

"Shane has always had the three key components to make him a top player, which is driving the ball really well, probably the best short game I've ever seen, and when it comes to crunch time, he really has what it takes," said McDowell.

The 2010 US Open winner took last week off to be as fresh as possible for the World Cup.Lowry played in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, finishing in a tie for 19th place.

"I feel like I am playing well and me and Graeme have a shot," said Lowry who has announced that he and wife Wendy are expecting a baby at the end of February.

Absence

That announcement put his absence from the Olympics over the Zika virus scare into context, and Lowry will relish the chance to round off his season playing for his country.

For all their confidence, the Irish players appreciate the scale of the challenge against a formidable field of two-man teams representing 28 countries. The tournament format is 72 holes of strokeplay with foursomes tomorrow; fourball on Friday; foursomes on Saturday, and fourball to conclude on Sunday.

Australia, represented by Jason Day and Adam Scott, were the winners when the World Cup was last held in 2013.

Day also took the individual title on that occasion, but this time the competition is confined to a team format.

Adam Scott teams up with Marc Leishman for the Aussies, while the USA is represented by PGA champion Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler.

Lowry and McDowell will tee off alongside Scotland's Russell Knox and Duncan Stewart at 12.50pm local time tomorrow (11.50pm Irish time tonight).

Meanwhile, Waterford's Seamus Power has dropped from 82 to 98 in the FedEx Cup rankings on the PGA Tour.

Power was unlucky at the RSM Classic last weekend when a gutsy three-birdie finish enabled him to make the cut on Friday, only to lose out on Saturday when another cut was made at the 54-hole mark.

Paul McGinley, who has qualified for the final stage of Champions Tour qualifying in Florida next week, believes Power has what it takes to succeed on the Tour, and that he will benefit from playing in tournaments with Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry next year.

"Seamus has got a good foundation in professional golf to jump in at this level. He's shot some really good scores and made some cuts.

"Like everything, it's a learning process and it's about getting comfortable on the PGA Tour.

"Knowing him like I do from the Olympics, and him being a proud Irishman, he'll benefit from spending time when Shane and Pádraig are playing in America with him - socially in terms of practice rounds, dinner at night, and a common background," said McGinley.

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