Seve Trophy race for McDowell

By Brian Keogh

Recharged Graeme McDowell faces a three-week race against time to make next month's Seve Trophy in Ireland.

The Ulsterman is desperate to play for Nick Faldo's Great Britain and Ireland side at The Heritage in Co Laois from September 27-30.

And after a four-week break he insists he's ready to pull out some top drawer performances - starting in this week's €2 million Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

McDowell said: "It's just great to be back to work as it seems such a long time since I played in the TPC in Hamburg.

"I was really excited to go to Sweden last week, but I felt I should hang on another week. I thought that by the time Gleneagles came around I will be really raring to go - and I am.

"I feel very refreshed and I'm looking forward very much to the next four weeks and in particular the next three as they're the last three before the cut-off for the Seve Trophy."

McDowell is a daunting €250,000 adrift of England's Nick Dougherty, who holds down the last automatic place in the GB&I side for the Seve Trophy matches.

But after a week's holiday in Mallorca and three weeks golfing with his buddies at Royal Country Down, Portstewart, Ballyliffin and Royal Portrush, he's set his sights on the €343,692 winner's cheque at Gleneagles.

He said: "I just needed a break to clear the head because competing in Hamburg was the first time in my career that I felt jaded on a golf course.

"I felt stale and wasn't enjoying my golf so it was perfect timing to have a few weeks off.

"But I have been working hard the last ten days on my game playing some fantastic links golf courses and, as I said, I'm raring to go."

Gleneagles has been good to McDowell, who finished second to Miles Tunnicliff in 2004.

But he's also set his sights on making Faldo's European Team for next year's Ryder Cup defence in Kentucky.

Faldo will skipper the European Ryder Cup side at Valhalla next year and with the qualification race set to start in next week's Omega European Masters in Switzerland, McDowell is determined to hit the ground running.

He added: "I played in the 2005 Seve Trophy but it would be fantastic to get a taste of Nick's captaincy ahead of hopefully making the side for that other little cup that's on next year in Kentucky.

"Part of the plan in taking time off was to be able to give it a good rip at the end of the year.

"I would need to have one very good week to make the side and if I get my head down I can achieve that. If I can do it, it would be a great stepping stone hopefully into the Ryder Cup next year."

Like world No 126 McDowell, Darren Clarke has also set his sights on improving his ranking between now and the end of the year.

A lowly 143rd in the world and 128th on the European Order of Merit, Clarke arrived in Scotland via London after a lightning visit to New York.

The Ulsterman, 39, played a number of corporate outings for his sponsors Barclays even though he wasn't playing in the Barclays Classic at Westchester.

Clarke said: "It was really tough having to be there at the tournament in New York and not competing.

"But I was also in Nantucket and at the new Liberty International course where the event is going in a couple of years time, so it was okay.

"I did a lot of corporate work but just got back on Tuesday morning, undid the suitcase, repacked and flew up here.

"But the reason I'm here is that I want to play. I've had a year which would be nice to forget, so I'm going to try and play as much as I can and try and get up the world rankings and the money list again."