McDowell primed for next step

Graeme McDowell believes he is ready to battle with the big boys for golf’s major titles - but first he wants to take on the world.

The Ulsterman, 29, grabbed a share of eighth place in the Volvo Masters to finish the season a career-high fifth in the Order of Merit.

Now he wants to prove he has stepped up to  a new level but contending for major honours and helping Paul McGinley to World Cup glory

Set to tee it up in the first event of the 2009 season in Shanghai this week, McDowell said: “I don’t think physically you feel there are any steps to step up. You know that physically you have the game to compete and I feel myself improving and getting better.

“I don’t think I have to climb any more rungs in the ladder. I’ve just got to keep chipping away and see my results improving.

“I wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders in the Volvo Masters and I finished in the top 10. I think my results in the Majors this year show me my game’s getting better and better and that’s all you can ask for really.”

Ulsterman McDowell won two European Tour titles this year and finished 19th in the Open at Birkdale and 15th in the US PGA at Oakland Hills

But he's set his sights having a fun-filled journey to World Cup victory with McGinley in China at the end of the month.

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."

Joking at  ultra-patriotic McGInley's expense, McDowell added: “I’ve already told Paul that as team captain that we’d be playing under the Northern Ireland flag that week, for the crack. That pleased him. Obviously jesting. We’re a team and we’re looking forward to it.”

McGinley will tee it up in the unofficial Hassan Trophy in Morocco this week before heading to Hong Kong in two weeks to warm up for the World Cup at Missions Hills.

After lifting the World Cup with Padraig Harrington in 1997, McGinley said: “I’m really looking forward to it.  Padraig is very much a power hitter now but myself and Graeme’s games are evenly matched.

“I am looking forward to the World Cup and I’m going to play Hong Kong the week before as a warm up.

"There will be a lot of good teams out there but I feel we have a good chance."