Tuesday 20 February 2018

McDowell takes a break before World Cup bid in Oz with Lowry

Graeme McDowell plans to take time out in Florida ahead of his World Cup bid. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Graeme McDowell plans to take time out in Florida ahead of his World Cup bid. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell will stand shoulder to shoulder for Ireland at the World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, starting on Thursday week.

Two good friends, two golfers who relish the team format, and two players who want to face into the Christmas season on a high note after a solid but not exceptional year on Tour to date.

That's why McDowell has turned down the chance to play this week and instead, takes a break at home in Orlando, Florida before travelling Down Under for the World Cup.

He could have chosen to avail of his 60th place in the Race To Dubai rankings and compete in this week's DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Alternatively, McDowell could have travelled to Sea Island, Georgia for the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour.

His decision to rest at home indicates the seriousness with which he will approach the World Cup.

"I want to be as fresh as I possibly can, get myself down there Monday morning into Melbourne and be ready to go for the weekend," he said.

McDowell's defence of his OHL Classic title ended on Sunday with a tied-24th place on 11-under par, 10 shots behind tournament winner Pat Perez.

He is 81st in the world rankings, 60th in Europe, and looking for a strong team showing in Melbourne to press forward in the 2017 part of the PGA Tour's 'wraparound' season.

"My practice levels are really cranking up, and I'm feeling good with where I'm at with my game," McDowell said.

"It hasn't been the year I wanted, but it was certainly a better year than last year.

"If I can finish the year strongly and take some good mojo into the off-season, I really feel like '17 could actually be a big season for me," said McDowell.

Lowry is lightly raced in recent weeks, as he opted out of Turkey due to uncertainty about security issues and had not included the Nedbank Challenge in his plans.

He has the luxury of knowing that his runner-up spot in the US Open earned a place in the 2017 Masters and at 42 in the world rankings, he can organise his schedule to take in all the big tournaments.

The Offaly man should be rested and will certainly be motivated for the DP World Tour Championship.

At the minimum, he wants to emerge from Dubai with his game in good shape for the World Cup.

Lowry joins defending Race To Dubai champion Rory McIlroy and Pádraig Harrington as the Irish representatives in the elite 60-man field.

Henrik Stenson, who leads the rankings, is one of four players who can win the overall Race To Dubai honour.

The others are Masters champion Danny Willett, Sweden's Alex Noren, and the title holder, McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman has already won the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour.

If he wins the tournament this week, McIlroy can retain his European number one slot, but while he tips Stenson to hold off the challengers, his main incentive is to regain the world number one accolade from Jason Day.

Speaking to Sky Sports, McIlroy said: "Henrik is the favourite this year. He is the guy that is playing well and has got the form. I still have a lot to play for this week.

"I think if I can win, I will finish the year as world number one, so that's a huge incentive, and that would make that Christmas break that much nicer."

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