Graeme McDowell has reiterated his fear he may lose out in becoming a future European Ryder Cup captain.
McDowell found himself behind a microphone and in the media spotlight after posting a superb four-under-par 68 early on day one of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This week’s $12m tournament is a home event for McDowell, living as he does on the Lake Nona resort around a 30-min drive from Bay Hill.
McDowell took advantage of the superb early-round conditions to post six birdies and two bogeys, matching a score he also posted on day one of January’s American Express.
GMac’s return to ‘Arnie’s’ event for the first time in two years was capped by three birdies in succession from his 11th hole, and comes after he crashed out of the 2021 event with a shock first day 79 and a five-over, two-round total.
This perhaps explains in part the reason McDowell was initially quizzed post his round on where he stands in terms of a love/hate relationship with the host Bay Hill layout.
“I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I don’t think you can ever really love really, really tough golf”, he said.
“It’s like a U.S. Open setup, for example. When you’re having to play away from flags, there’s a certain frustration to that, but there’s also a certain amount of discipline required to do that.
“That’s what made Tiger great. That’s why Tiger won so many times around here because, A, he’s really, really good. B, you have to be super-efficient with what you’re doing. You have to ignore pin positions and stay away from trouble. So, I think that appeals to that type of player”.
Though when it comes to his Ryder Cup captaincy aspirations, McDowell again spoke of his fear he may miss the captaincy vote, as he had revealed exclusively a month ago to Irish Golfer Magazine.
And it does not help McDowell that he is playing the opening two Arnold Palmer rounds alongside newly-appointed 2023 USA Captain Zach Johnson who seemed a cert for the Rome role.
“I’m obviously playing with Zach this week, walking around thinking maybe I should throw my hat in and go with him?”, said McDowell.
“I just don’t think I’m quite ready. Part of me would love to because part of me thinks, if I don’t take this one, I might not get it, which would be disappointing. But I kind of have to put my own individual career first. I feel like I desperately want to get back playing consistently well at a high level again rather than maybe taking my attention away and taking the Ryder Cup captaincy.
“Maybe part of me would be suggesting that I’m not good enough to make the team. Are there 12 better players than me in Europe right now? I’ve got to ask myself that question. If I’m out here doing what I’m doing, I have to say there are not 12 guys better than me, and I’m good enough to make the team.
“To be able to compete at a high level, I have to have that belief. If I take the captaincy then, that belief isn’t there. It makes it hard for me to compete.
“That’s sort of what really the decision’s got to come down to. I’d love to be captain one day, but if I don’t take it this time, I’m well aware that I might miss, which would be disappointing”.
And as McDowell revealed again why he thinks he may miss out on captaining a European team.
“I think there are too many great guys stacking up. There are too many great players. There’s going to be seven or eight guys vying for the next five or six”, he said.
“Someone’s going to miss. When you’re talking about Westwood and Garcia and Justin Rose, you’re talking about top, top European players, of which I am one, but those guys have maybe slightly different credentials than me”.
What then does he think it takes to be a Ryder Cup Captain?
“I think that’s what we do in Europe. Yeah, I think we — it opens the debate. Should it be great leaders of men, or should it be guys that are legendary players that deserve to be Ryder Cup captains?”, he said.
“End of the day, I look at the captaincy as an honour. Padraig Harrington did a phenomenal job last year. I thought he ticked every box and he got a historic beating. Does that mean he’s a bad captain? No, he’s a great captain.
“To me, being captain is an honour. It’s very, very hard to be a game-changer. The way we do it in Europe to a certain extent where we take the legends and the guys that deserve to be there and we give them that honour. I think that’s okay.
“The captains that have been thrown under the bus over the years, it’s a bit unnecessary because it comes down to the players at the end of the day, and there’s not really a whole lot the captain can do to help the guys hole putts”.
Irish Golfer Magazine has addressed in recent weeks the delay in Europe naming a new Rome Captain and, with McDowell not saying anything we are all not aware of, that those at Wentworth are very much awaiting news of those set to join a breakaway Golf League, that we understand will be announced a mid-next week, slap-bang in the middle of the Players Championship and World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“Yeah, there certainly needs to be a slight delay on our side. It seems like the Saudi league seems to be a variable that is kind of putting things on delay at the minute”, said McDowell.
“From my point of view, it certainly has nothing to do with the Saudi League. I’m not going to take the captaincy. It’s really about me just trying to focus on what I’m doing out there as much as I possibly can.
“We’ll see. I think Luke Donald will do a great job. I think Henrik Stenson will do a great job. It’s just a case of which one of these guys wants it”.
And one last question of GMac before heading off to a well-earned lunch and that was to ask him if he’s been approached for the 2023 European Ryder Cup captaincy.
“Well, I’d have to expand a bit on that. No (smiling)”.
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