Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell believe they have the chemistry to round off Ireland’s amazing 2008 season with victory in the $5m (€3.9m) Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
The Irish aces had a 100 percent record when they teamed up under Seve Ballesteros in the 2006 Royal Trophy in Thailand. And they will be hoping they can repeat of that kind of form and end Ireland’s record breaking golfing year by pocketing the $1.7m (€1.32 m) team prize on the Olazabal Course at Shenzen in China.
Winner of the title with Padraig Harrington in 1997, McGinley said: “The Irish have had a fantastic year on tour - eight tournament wins, two majors. It's unbelievable.
“Graeme has had a wonderful year, which has been forgotten about now because he played most of his good golf in the summer. He capped it with a brilliant performance in the Ryder Cup.
“As a country I think we should be very proud of what we have achieved this year. It will be strange not to be playing with Padraig again but the truth is that our games are now a lot different than they were back in ’97. Padraig is now very much a power hitter but Graeme is very similar to me in a lot of ways.
“We are both pretty straight off the tee and hit a lot of greens in regulation. Strategy-wise that will be a help but it all comes down to getting the ball in the hole.”
Unlike McGinley, who has fallen to 100th in the world rankings, world No 31 McDowell has had a stellar season. But after grabbing two tour wins and making a brilliant Ryder Cup debut at Oakland Hills, he’d love to round off a year to remember by hoisting the World Cup aloft on Sunday night.
McDowell said: “I played with Paul in the Royal Trophy a few years ago – he’s a fierce competitor and great team player and I have to say I’m excited about teeing it up with him.
“I’ve never played a World Cup, so personally I’m very excited about it. I’m definitely looking forward to that prospect."
Ireland has had a record-breaking year on the fairways with 15 tournament wins - eight on the European Tour, three on the Challenge Tour and four on the third tier Europro Tour.
McDowell said: “I don't think we have ever really struggled to produce great players in Irish golf. But golf goes in cycles and we are on one of the highs right now.
“Myself and Darren Clarke won twice and what can you say about Padraig, you run out of superlatives to describe his year. Then there’s Rory McIlroy.
“There is a lot of talent coming through with Gareth Maybin getting his card and Michael Hoey and Jonathan Caldwell coming through the Q-School.
“It is only getting stronger and stronger and it is a really exciting time for Irish golf and great to be a part of it. It is a really nice time and we may as well enjoy it.”
McGinley believes the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) can take the lion’s share of the credit for Ireland’s incredible performances in world golf over the past 20 years.
He said: The professionalism with which they approach things nowadays is astronomical and it started back with John Garner as the first appointed coach and moved on with David Jones and Howard Bennett to Neil Manchip today.
I think their foresight 20 years ago is the reason why we are having so much success on the European Tour. I don't think they get as much credit as they deserve. All the levies that are paid throughout the country, people wonder where they go. Well, they are getting it back - one guy has won two Major championships this year.
“He certainly wouldn't have done that without the benefit of the GUI. Maybe he wouldn't have won his Majors without the backing he had as a Junior through the GUI.”
The big names have stayed away from the World Cup yet again with Ireland third favourties behind Swedish pair Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson and English duo Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher.
World No 6 Karlsson is the top-ranked player in the field with Stenson is the second highest at No 12. The only other player in the top 20 is Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is teaming with Pablo Larrazabal.
Ireland’s last 10 World Cup results since 1997 victory
- 2007 Mission Hills, China, Gareth Maybin and Michael Hoey T24 (Winners Scotland)
- 2006 Sandy Lane Resort, Barbados, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington T12 (Germany)
- 2005 Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, Portugal, Harrington and McGinley T12 (Wales)
- 2004 Seville, Spain, Harrington and McGinley T3 (England)
- 2003 Kiawah Island, USA, Harrington and McGinley T5 (South Africa)
- 2002 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Harrington and McGinley T8 (Japan)
- 2001 Gotemba, Japan Harrington and McGinley T14 (South Africa)
- 2000 Buenos Aires, Argentina, Harrington and McGinley T10 (USA)
- 1999 Malaysia, Harrington and McGinley 3rd (USA)
- 1998 Auckland, New Zealand, Harrington and McGinley 6th (England)