Friday 19 January 2018

Why next year's Valhalla return will be full of Ryder memories

Graeme McDowell has endured a difficult season and believes he will improve his schedule for the coming seasons.
Graeme McDowell has endured a difficult season and believes he will improve his schedule for the coming seasons.

Karl MacGinty

BEATEN by the Yanks and left 'howling at the moon' with European team-mates and a troupe of drunken Irish leprechauns in downtown Louisville.

Still, Graeme McDowell rates Valhalla 2008 as the best of his three Ryder Cup appearances.

So he relishes returning there next August for the US PGA, in what promises to be a special year at the Majors for the Portrush man.

The US Open, which McDowell won in 2010 at Pebble Beach, takes place at Pinehurst in 2014.

"Made the cut for the first time in a Major there in 2005," he recalls. "It's an iron-play golf course and suits me really well."

Then it's on to the British Open at Hoylake, where he blazed the trail on the Thursday in 2006 with a phenomenal 66.

"It was roasting hot with super-fast fairways, a fine course but I didn't know how to handle that scenario."

Captain bungle Nick Faldo's team took a five-point pasting in Kentucky but rookie McDowell revelled in the atmosphere as he made a sparkling Ryder Cup bow.

Though he sealed Europe's victory at Celtic Manor in 2010 and shared in that thrilling Sunday comeback at Medinah, G-Mac insists: "Valhalla was the best Ryder Cup experience I've had so far."

McDowell won two and a half points out of four, teaming up with Ian Poulter for a one-hole victory over Jim Furyk and local hero Kenny Perry in "the best match I've ever played at the Ryder Cup", followed by a 2&1 singles win over Stuart Cink.

"The after-match was brilliant," he recalls. "The Americans all came into our team room and even though Lee Westwood and Boo Weekley had a big spat that week, they ended up hugging it out in the corner."

A wild night ended in 'Howl At The Moon', a duelling piano bar in downtown Louisville, where about 150 drunken European fans dressed as leprechauns eventually forced the place to close down.

McDowell also has fared spectacularly well at Sherwood Country Club, venue for this week's Northwestern World Challenge.

He has won $3m in three visits there, finishing second on his debut in 2009, beating host Tiger Woods in sudden death in 2010 before another famous victory last year. Watch out for G-Mac at Thousand Oaks this week.

Irish Independent

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