Tuesday 20 February 2018

McDowell aims for Ryder glory

WITHIN minutes of winning the US Open for Europe, Graeme McDowell and his fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy turned their attention to snatching another prestige trophy from the United States ... the Ryder Cup in September.

McDowell leapt to No 2 in Europe's Ryder Cup rankings and made certain of his place in the team at Celtic Manor with Sunday's victory ... and one of the first calls he made was to his closest personal friend on the fairways, McIlroy, who'd missed the cut at Pebble Beach.

"Hey kid, what's it going to be, odds or evens?" quipped golf's newest Major champion, referring to the fantastic foursomes partnership the Ulster aces struck up at last year's Vivendi Trophy and which is likely to be one of the trump cards in Europe's hand at the Ryder Cup.

Harrington backs champ

McDOWELL wasn't the only Major champion in the house as his victory was toasted until the wee small hours at Brophy's Tavern in the picturebook town of Carmel, by the back gate of Pebble Beach.

Prominent was Padraig Harrington, who said of his 2008 Ryder Cup comrade: "Graeme's game suits the Majors. He hits it straight and hits lots of fairways and greens and when he gets ahead, he's always played with great confidence. I've always been impressed by his ability to win tournaments from the front.

"Winning a Major brings a lot of pressure but it's what you want as a player. Having won one might make it easier to relax when you're in contention again but it doesn't make it any easier in terms of preparation," added the Dubliner. "I'm impressed with what Graeme's done and I'd see him playing very well off the back of this."

Sky is now the limit

SUNDAY'S $1.35m (€1.09m) winning cheque at Pebble Beach has sent McDowell's earnings in eight years as a professional over the €10m mark. Some of his sponsorship deals also include bonus clauses, which become payable in the event of a Major championship victory.

Conor Ridge, McDowell's agent at Horizon, the flourishing sports management firm he founded in Dublin, would not discuss figures but nodded when reporters asked if it would be seven figures (or €1m-plus). After five years with Chubby Chandler's Manchester agency, ISM, McDowell sought a fresh start with Horizon in 2007, one of several sea changes he made in his career at that time as he rededicated himself to his career, clearly with spectacular results.

His portfolio is relatively full but now he's a Major champion, new sponsors will be especially keen to come on board. McDowell currently endorses Callaway, Louis Copeland in Dublin, Ballantines Scotch, who trade principally in Asia, Al Naboodah of the Middle East, luxury Swiss watch manufacturer Audemars-Piguet and Marquis Jets in the US.

Monty: putts key to victory

RYDER CUP captain Colin Montgomerie sent McDowell a congratulatory note after his recent victory at the Welsh Open in Celtic Manor, urging him to keep up the good work.

The Irishman certainly took Monty at his word with Sunday's victory. "It was a magnificent performance," said the Scot, twice a runner-up at the US Open and also third on his debut at Pebble in 1992.

"He holed so many key putts -- especially a crucial one on the eighth for par -- and was very impressive throughout the week. Graeme showed great strength of character in getting the job done in such superb fashion. He's a world-class player and, obviously, I am delighted to have a 2010 Major winner in my team this year."

Best Father's Day present

SOME of us get socks. Others cigars. Yet Kenny McDowell received one of the best Father's Day presents of all time at Pebble Beach.

McDowell Senior rushed out to embrace Graeme after he'd tapped in his second putt for par and victory at the last. His first words were: "You're some kid," to which his son simply replied: "Happy Father's Day dad."

Kenny McDowell's elation contrasted sharply with his nerve-shearing tension a few moments earlier as Graeme's first putt from 25 feet rolled to a halt on the final green.

"There was no clapping and I'm thinking 'how far away is he' but I knew it was close once I saw Ken (Comboy) preparing to take the 18th hole flag off the top of the stick.

"I was absolutely shattered when it was all over and felt like falling down. It's amazing, it really is. The last wee while Graeme's been playing so well but you don't think he's going to win a Major with all those names up there."

Door opens on

PGA Tour

ONE bonus for McDowell in the wake of his first Major Championship victory is the opportunity it gives him to take out membership of the US PGA Tour and trade alongside Harrington, McIlroy and other elite performers as a World Player.

Whether he does so now or waits until the end of the season will be considered over the next few days as McDowell and his management team study the small print in the rules for US Tour membership.

The pre-requisite for dual-Tour membership is a solid place in the world's elite top-50, allowing a player access to the Majors and World Golf Championships, which are counting events on both sides of the Atlantic.

McDowell has soared to No 13 in the world on the back of Sunday's performance.

Irish Independent

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