McDowell keen to play World Cup

By Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell says he'd love to play for Ireland in November's Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

But with Ireland looking likely to be forced to qualify, the Ulsterman has no idea who his partner will be.

The 18 exempt nations will be decided on Monday based on the official world rankings.

And with world No 7 Padraig Harrington deciding to skip the event this year for the first time since 1997, Ireland could be forced to send a two-man team to Aruba or Kuala Lumpur for the international qualifiers from September 27-30.

A further ten nations will take their places at Mission Hills in China through the qualifiers, but McDowell is still hopeful that Ireland will get a last minute exemption.

He said: "It is all a bit up in the air. I'd love to play World Cup but where it falls in the schedule is not ideal.

"The World Cup qualifiers are the same week as the Seve Trophy and just a week before the Dunhills Links.

"So if I was in the running for the Seve Trophy it is not ideal. I'll just play it by ear.

"I hear we are not 100 percent out of the running for a spot. There might be a chance that so many guys decide not to play that it will go far enough down the world rankings to allow us to play in it."

As things stand, the top 18 available players in the world's top 100 on Monday can choose their partners providing they are also ranked in the top 100.

But with Harrington Ireland's only top 100 player, our next highest ranked players are No 126 McDowell and 143rd ranked Darren Clarke.

Clarke hasn't played in the World Cup since 1996 and has consistently given up his right to play in the side to allow McGinley to partner Harrington every year since, winning in 1997.

That puts world No 164 McGinley back in the frame again but if Ireland have to qualify, McGinley would be forced to choose between the qualifier and a possible Seve Trophy invite.

And if Ireland does have to qualify, McDowell wants to a partner who will not take a "half-assed" attitude to the event.

He added: "As far as qualifying goes, it is not out of the question. It is going to mean a major decision for me but I'd love to have a go at it.

"I very much doubt that Darren would be available and it is just a pity that the qualifiers are so far away - Kuala Lumpur and Aruba. And with the Seve Trophy. it looks as though Paul will not be available.

"If the decision comes down to me, whoever my partner is going to be, they will have to be right up for it.

"There is no point in going all the way to a qualifier to have a half-assed go at it. If I go, I will be giving it 110 percent."

If McGinley gets a Seve Trophy call up, McDowell's next available partner will be Damien McGrane or Peter Lawrie.

He added: "The way the qualifiers work, we should get a spot. We won't be up against anyone outstanding so there is a very good chance we will qualify if we play well."

World No 261 McGrane had no idea where the World Cup or the qualifiers were being held this year.

He said: "I haven't thought about it to be honest. It hadn't entered my mind. I'll be looking at it now though."

If recent World Cup experience is anything to go by, the likes of Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia will not be competing on the Jose Maria Olazabal-designed course from November 22-25.

Last year even the lure of a week in Barbados in December was only strong enough to attract two members of the world's top 10, Luke Donald and Harrington.

This year, Harrington has decided to skip the event as his wife is due to give birth to the couple's second child early in December.

But the fact that the event no longer comes under the World Golf Championships umbrella has severely affected its prestige.

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie only committed this week, saving last year's runner-up nation the embarrassment of having to qualify.