Graeme McDowell sounded super excited at the thought of teeing-up this week in Dubai alongside half-a-dozen 19 to 24-year-old fellow competitors who he could be hopefully captaining in the 2027 Ryder Cup at Adare Manor.
McDowell’s ended a six-year absence to be the lone Irishman teeing-up in today’s commencing season-ending DP World Tour Championship on the Earth course at Jumeirah Estates. Triple European No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Open Champion, Shane Lowry have chosen not to tee-up in the Euro 6.6m event. In their absence is the Stars and Stripes duo of Patrick Reed, current European No. 1 money-leader, and Collin Morikawa at No. 3 with either in the frame to become the first American in the 48-year history of the Tour to win the Race to Dubai No.1 title.
McDowell finds himself back in the Dubai event for a first occasion since 2014 while he’s also back in the Middle East again for the first time since his stunning Saudi International triumph earlier this year. And while McDowell has struggled since his 16th pro career win 10 months ago, the almost certain 2021 European Team vice-captain has spoken of his excitement not only in striving to still qualify automatically for next year’s rescheduled 2021 Ryder Cup but the strong possibility he will be handed the European Team captaincy, in a team sure to boast some of the current 24-year-old’s and under, for the 2027 showdown at Adare Manor.
“I still strongly harbour outside hopes and beliefs and dreams of making next year’s Ryder Cup as a player,” he said. “Clearly, goal number one is to make it as a player but if I don’t, absolutely then I mean, I want to be a captain one day.
“Experiencing those weeks with other captains, especially legendary players like Pádraig Harrington, that experience will stand me in good stead if I ever eventually become a Ryder Cup captain myself. If you ask me do I want to be a Ryder Cup Captain? Yeah, for sure. Does that captaincy in 2027 at Adare Manor have my name on it? Who knows?
“There’s a lot of water has to flow under the bridge between now and then. If I’m not playing, being a vice-captain and being at these Ryder Cups and being with these players, watching the next generation of Ryder Cup heroes coming through in Europe and being someone these guys can trust, I think is something that I will look to work on over the next six years.”
That younger generation of European young guns start with 19-year old Dane Rasmus Hojgaard, a two-time winner this year in his 18-event rookie season this year. There’s also 22-year-old Finn Sami Valimaki, also a winner this year and sensational Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who jetted into Dubai Tuesday morning (local time) after a 30-hour flight from Mexico, and a second PGA Tour success. And not leaving out the 24-year-old duo of England’s Sam Horsfield and Scottish lefty, Robert MacIntyre, with Horsfield winning also twice this year and MacIntyre a maiden Tour winner in Cyprus.
“It’s cool to see kids like Højgaard and Hovland coming through and we’re talking about them,” said McDowell. “It’s the backbone of why Europe was so successful in the 90s with Monty, Faldo, Seve, Lyle, Langer and then you move into the Westwoods, Clarkes, Donalds, Poulters, Caseys, Harringtons, Stensons, myself, Donalds.
“And now we’re moving into Rory, Sergio, Rahm, Tommy, Francesco, Tyrrell Hatton.… The next generation is starting to separate themselves, which is exciting. I may have missed some names but we all know who the backbones have been and the new nucleus is starting to form, and it’s going to be exciting.”
And McDowell had looked back on his own season as a ‘strange’ and ‘difficult’ year that also included his long-time caddy being struck down with the coronavirus. The win in Saudi sent McDowell rocketing to 47th in the world and back to Augusta National for a Masters tee time but he arrived in Dubai presently ranked 77th.
A reflection of his season has been his showing in the six events McDowell has played since the start in September of the 2020/21 PGA Tour season. McDowell played six but sat out the weekend rounds in four, and two of those were missing the cut in the U.S. Open, the 10th anniversary of his Pebble Beach triumph, and also the Masters. Though there was a great final round 67 at Wentworth to finish just outside the top-20 at the BMW PGA in between.
“It’s been a very strange, and on a lot of levels,” he said. “It’s been difficult since we came back after the break and is it because I took my eye off golf for too long? Perhaps I did, you know, I focused on family time, and I focused on some physical stuff that I wanted to try and achieve and you know when I came back, my golf wasn’t as sharp as I left it off.
“Kenny (Comboy – caddy) caught COVID two weeks in, so it was a bumpy start sort of when we returned, and it took me a while to settle down a little bit. Thankfully the last couple of months has been a little better as I was top-25 at the BMW PGA, felt like I started to swing the club better. And you know, I think mentally I’m already moving on to next year.
“Of course, I’m here to play well and compete here in Dubai, but feel like I’ve learned a lot from the last three or four months as to the new normal that we’re dealing with here in professional golf, which is quiet, low energy. You have to create your own intensity.
“I think we have to be prepared as we move into 2021 that there may be some more of the same, unfortunately. So, guys are getting it done on a week-to-week basis, and there’s no excuses for my point of view. You have to adopt them, and you’ve got to learn how to get the most out of yourself every week.”
- McDowell got his DP World Tour Championship underway at 6.50am, Irish time this morning. He was two-over par through eight holes at the time of writing.
- Full scoring HERE