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  • Alistair Tait

Graeme McDowell gives Padraig Harrington Ryder Cup problem

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

Graeme McDowell has given European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington a problem, a problem Harrington will welcome.

Harrington probably has a couple of lists as he prepares to captain the European team at Whistling Straits. Hopefully they’re interchangeable.

The Dubliner no doubt has a huge list of potential players who could make his 12-man team. He might also have a smaller list of potential vice captains to accompany Robert Karlsson. McDowell would have been on the latter list.

Not now.

Harrington will move McDowell’s name onto the players’ list after the 2010 U.S. Open champion won the $3.5 million Saudi International, his 11th European victory. The win takes McDowell to eighth on the European Ryder Cup World Points List and currently into one of the nine automatic spots for Harrington's team

McDowell was at Le Golf National two years ago to help Europe win the Ryder Cup. He was there as one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice captains. The Northern Irishman hasn’t played in the biennial match since helping Europe win at Gleneagles in 2014, his fourth Ryder Cup appearance.

It comes as no surprise that many probably felt Gleneagles might be his last tilt as a player, that he’d be consigned to vice-captain duties before assuming the captaincy role one day.

Victory in Saudi Arabia means McDowell can dream of a return to proper Ryder Cup action, instead of acting as nursemaid to players.

True, one swallow does not make a summer, one win does not morph into a Ryder Cup spot. There’s a lot of golf to be played between now and final team selection on Monday 14th September, but McDowell has thrown his name into the mix.

He deserves to be there. Whatever your thoughts about top player participation in Saudi Arabia, McDowell beat a strong field that included seasoned Ryder Cup players from both the European and American teams.

Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickleson, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed were all in Saudi Arabia. McDowell stood head and shoulders above them.

"It's special," McDowell said. "I've been working hard the last year and a half. I want to be back up there one more time just to be able to play against these guys.
"The game of golf is in such great shape. There are so many great players in the world. It's so exciting to be a top player in the world and I want to be back up there again. I'm very excited that it's happened a little faster than I expected, but hopefully it's laying some foundations down for having a big year.
"It's been 10 years since I won a U.S. Open, 10 years probably since I played the best golf of my life. I feel like I'm moving back in the right direction.
"Kevin (Kirk, coach) said to me, 'There's no reason why the best golf in your career can't still be ahead of you'. I like that. I like that kind of idea. I like that focus."

That focus will certainly shift to the Ryder Cup. McDowell moves back into the world top 50 with his first European Tour win since the 2014 French Open. That means he automatically tees it up in the majors and WGC tournaments with plenty of chances to rack up more Ryder Cup points.

Harrington will hope McDowell can grab one of the nine automatic spots on his team at the conclusion of the BMW PGA Championship. He’ll want GMac for the same reason previous captains wanted him: he’s got the sort of grit needed to win Ryder Cup matches. He’s certainly proved that in his four playing appearances, especially in 2010 when he got Europe’s winning point by defeating Hunter Mahan in singles.

McDowell has given Harrington a very nice Ryder Cup problem.

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