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Wednesday 16 April 2014

McDowell and McGinley fly the flag for Ireland

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland tees off on the par four 2nd hole during the second round of the Volvo Masters at the Valderrama Golf Club on October 31, 2008 in Sotogrande, Spain. Photo: Ross Kinnaird, Getty Images

AS ball-hops go, Graeme McDowell came up with a cracker at Valderrama.

At No 33 in the world, Portrush man McDowell outranks Paul McGinley on Ireland's two-man team to contest the World Cup of Golf at Mission Hills in China from November 27-30.

Yet Ryder Cup ace McGinley is a veteran of 12 World Cups, including a famous victory for Ireland with Padraig Harrington in 1997 at Kiawah Island.

So when McDowell was asked on Sunday who'd be skipper of the team in China, he replied: "As team captain I've already told Paul we'd be playing under the Northern Ireland flag that week. That pleased him, though obviously I was just jesting."

McGinley's response?

"Don't go down that road -- your Ryder Cup captain put you in enough trouble," the quick-witted Dubliner fired back, referring to Nick Faldo's speech at the opening ceremony in Valhalla, when he turned and asked McDowell if he came from "Ireland or Northern Ireland".

In fact, McGinley and McDowell relish playing together at the World Cup.

"Yeah, we could do well out there. Of course we could, though there's a lot of really good teams taking part," McGinley enthused. "Padraig's become a big power hitter in recent years but myself and Graeme's game are evenly matched."

McDowell, a former Royal Trophy team-mate of McGinley and one of the few success stories on Faldo's European team in Kentucky, continued: "We're a team and are looking forward to it."

McDowell especially respects McGinley as "a fierce competitor and great team player. I have to say, I'm excited about teeing it up with him. I've never played a World Cup, so personally I'm very excited about it."

For the record, golf's international ruling body, the R&A, recognises the entire island of Ireland as administered by the 32 county GUI, so neither the Republic nor Northern Ireland officially exists as a separate golfing entity.

The Tricolour and Union Flag fly side-by-side at R&A events like The Open or The Walker Cup, while Ireland competes under the Tricolour at international tournaments like The Eisenhower Trophy, amateur golf's world championship.

The European Tour, created in the 70s, long after partition, acknowledges both political traditions and their flags on this island, an ethos which has spread throughout professional golf.

Yet the Tricolour has long flown at the World Cup, an event which, as the former Canada Cup, dates back to the early 1950s. Though currently promoted by the European Tour under the auspices of the International Federation of PGA Tours, the World Cup still displays the Tricolour as a flag of convenience for the Irish team on its official website.

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