It’s been the year from hell in many respects but Graeme McDowell is looking ahead and having failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup he’s set his sights on the remainder of 2015 and the start of the 2016 Ryder Cup campaign in Europe this week.
Reunited with his old coach Clive Tucker to work in his fundamentals — he’s still with Pete Cowen — the Portrush man was on social media on Tuesday plugging his efforts to get back on track.
“My #RoadtotheRyderCup started today,” McDowell said in an Instagram post. ”Time to get this ship back on course. #grindtime”
McDowell was key member of Paul McGinley’s European side and now has three wins from four Ryder Cup appearances having made his debut under Nick Faldo in 2008.
He’s been less successful in the ones he really wants to win, the majors, and having seen power players like Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson Jordan Spieth and Jason Day surge past him in recent years, he’s plainly got to improve his strengths to have any chance of competing.
His comeback singles win over Spieth in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles is something he may draw confidence from and it will be interesting to see how he plays when he returns to action in Europe for the Porsche European Open at the Beckenbauer Golf Course, Bad Griesbach in a few weeks’ time.
No doubt, he needs something positive to happen and fast having suffered a series of blows this year. His major record alone reads T52-MC-T49-MC
Ranked 60th in the world, his worst ranking since he claimed the 2008 Scottish Open to set his career on an almost constant upward curve, balancing life as a husband and father with the demands of tour golf has not been easy.
Driving and putting troubles have led to the perfect storm and a series of poor results leading to his failure to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time.
“There’s a pulse, there’s life,” he said at The Open. "You know, I'm in there somewhere. I’ve just got to keep battling.”
Having shown sigsn in the Bridgestone Invitational that he was returning to form, McDowell’s missed cut in the US PGA leaves him with a lot of work to do to be ready to challenge for a plaace on the Ryder Cup tea given that he is out of the world’s Top 50 right now.
With qualification beginning at the M2M Russian Open this week, McDowell knows that the first four players will come from the Ryder Cup European Points List, based on points gained in official European Tour events.
The next five will come from the Ryder Cup World Points List, based on Official World Golf Ranking points gained globally. After those nine players are determined, Captain Darren Clarke will select three wild cards to round out his team.
Shane Lowry will be expected to challenge for one of those nine automatic places while it would appear to be the perfect time for a player like McDowell’s former Walker Cup foursomes partner Michel Hoey to step up a level.
The most recent of Hoey’s five European Tour wins came at the M2M Russian Open two years ago, and he returns to Moscow this week feeling like his game is in good shape to take on new venue, Skolkovo Golf Club, according to the European Tour:
The 36 year old romped to a four shot victory two years ago at Tseleevo Golf Club to add to his impressive tally of wins which also includes four Challenge Tour titles.
It was his fifth triumph on the top tier in the space of four years but Hoey has since struggled to continue that incredible winning form, something which he is hoping to change this week at an event which invokes his freshest memories of victory.
“It’s a good opportunity here for myself and some of the younger guys to come and try get a win because the field isn’t as strong as the likes of Wentworth or the bigger tournaments,” said the former Amateur Champion.
“I used to play Challenge Tour at Moscow Country Club, which was always a fantastic course and when I won two years ago it was at Tseleevo – another great golf course. This is quality too, so the course is always when you come here.
“I haven’t really been totally sharp this year. We had a baby at the end of last year so we have two kids now and that can be tough with the travelling.
“I’m definitely disappointed not to have challenged as much this year but I’ve secured my job on The European Tour for next year so at least I have that. It’s been a tough year with the two young ones but it should get easier and I’m feeling great now so hopefully the end of the year can be good.
“I’m hitting the ball well but I just need to hole a couple of putts. If I’d putted better last week I definitely would have been top five so I’m looking forward to the week now. I putted really well two years ago and it was a similar course so if I can do that this week then you never know.”
Hoey certainly enjoys his time in Russia and, with this year’s spectacular new venue just inside the city limits of Moscow, he is looking forward to taking in some of the sights as well making the most of the pristine conditions on a Jack Nickaus Signature Design lay-out owned by Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
“It’s very different over here,” said Hoey. “The Red Square and all the buildings here are quite spectacular, so I’m going to try and see a bit of the city, and we’re closer to the centre this year which is good. I always like going to different places like this.
“Hopefully the game grows here thanks to events like this. I know not as many people play the game here as back home but hopefully that can change because the courses here are fantastic. I don’t think many people play this course and it’s in immaculate condition so we’re fortunate to be on it.
“It’s just quality here. It’s quite wide off the tee and it’s a Nicklaus design so the greens are shaped side-on. The putting surfaces are phenomenal and it’s quite straight-forward but it’s very enjoyable.
“Around the greens, Jack has a lot of bunkers where, if you bail out you could have a tough shot coming out of a downslope in a deep bunker. That’s his design and maybe the bunkers won’t come into play much off the tee but definitely around the greens.”
Hoey is joined in the field by Headfort’s Brian Casey, who plays on the Europro Tour, as well as Damien McGrane, Kevin Phelan, Peter Lawrie and Niall Kearney.
At 105th, Phelan is the best placed of the tour regulars in the Race to Dubai with Lawrie just €12,000 outside the all important Top 110 in 119th.
McGrane, despite his first top 10 in a year in last week’s Czech Masters, is 166th and still €92,000 outside the Top 110 who keep their cards with just eight regular season events remaining.
Meanwhile, The Island’s Gavin Moynihan looks set to make his professional debut in the 72° OPEN D’ITALIA presented by DAMIANI the week after the Walker Cup.
The Dubliner, who will sign with Chubby Chandler’s ISM, has been handed a sponsor’s invitation and will be joined at Parco Reale di Monza by Darren Clarke, Pádraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and 44-year old McGrane