Tuesday 19 September 2017

McDowell sets sights on Race to Dubai title

Graeme McDowell poses with the trophy after helping Europe win the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor last Monday. Photo: Getty Images
Graeme McDowell poses with the trophy after helping Europe win the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor last Monday. Photo: Getty Images

Bernie McGuire at St Andrews

After the euphoria of the past few days, Graeme McDowell is now focusing on his goal of ending the year as European No 1.

McDowell has been inundated with messages of congratulations since delivering the Ryder Cup for Europe on the 17th at Celtic Manor on Monday.

The Portrush man still looked a little worse for wear after playing just eight holes at Carnoustie yesterday in readiness for today's start to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Eight of McDowell's victorious colleagues, along with captain Colin Montgomerie and vice-captains Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, are contesting the 'celebration of links golf'.

McDowell has enjoyed the celebrations that followed his heroics on Monday and revealed that if the Ryder Cup were ever to switch to table tennis, the Americans would win hands down -- the USA side won most of the matches that were staged in the American team room well into the small hours of Tuesday.

Having sealed the Wales Open and US Open titles back-to-back earlier this year, and then etched his name into Ryder Cup folklore, McDowell returns to the European Tour looking to end the year with a fourth high.

"The Race to Dubai title is a big goal of mine, and I'm playing the last five or six events in a row to finish the season," he said.

"But the last few months have definitely been a life-changing experience. I've certainly lived two of my golfing dreams. To win a Major championship and to hole the winning putt in the Ryder Cup -- these are dreams.

"These are absolute golf dreams for me, and I've just lived out two of those in the space of four months and I feel incredibly lucky.

fortunate

"I can't get my head round it, for sure, but I feel very fortunate and privileged that I've had the opportunity. But then if you had taken me aside in January and said, you're going to win the Wales Open, shoot 127 on the weekend to win, go to Pebble Beach and win the US Open and a couple of months later you're going to win the Ryder Cup for Europe by holing the winning putt, I'd have said, 'you're nuts'. So it's an extremely surreal feeling."

McDowell trails in second place, €469,734 behind Martin Kaymer, on the European standings, and depending on what the German does this week, McDowell could go past his Ryder Cup colleague with victory in Scotland.

Joining McDowell in Scotland are fellow Irish Ryder Cup stars Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington.

Three years ago, McIlroy walked off the 18th green at the Home of Golf having finished third to secure European Tour membership.

At the time, the Ryder Cup to McIlroy was but a dream. He was asked about the Ryder Cup and got himself into a corner with some immature remarks. But this morning McIlroy will venture out onto Kingsbarns, his father Gerry again his partner in the Pro-Am event, with a new-found fondness for the Ryder Cup.

"Unbelievable exhibition," was how he described the Ryder Cup, laughing. "It's the best golf tournament in the world, by far. The whole experience has made me open my eyes and realise how important it is to everyone and it's become very important to me now.

"I've only played one, and I don't want to miss another one."

And while McIlroy will have many more Ryder Cups ahead of him, Montgomerie revealed that, despite turning down any future role as European team captain, he would not decline the offer of acting as a vice-captain to 2012's expected captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

"I would not hesitate, and I would be honoured to help him (Olazabal), if I was asked to be a vice-captain," said Montgomerie.

"He is clear favourite and I would be honoured to help the European cause, as I would under any captain in the future."

Joining McDowell, McIlroy, Harrington, Clarke and McGinley in this week's $5m event are fellow Irish players Peter Lawrie, Simon Thornton, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin, Damien McGrane and Gary Murphy.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport