By Brian Keogh
Graeme McDowell says Padraig Harrington is his role model and inspiration as he battles to earn his first Ryder Cup cap in September.
The Portrush ace, 28, is the hot favourite to lift this week’s Volvo China Open in Beijing and take a giant step towards making Nick Faldo’s side for Valhalla.
And after a career of peaks and troughs he looks at Open champion Harrington’s incredible consistency as the perfect example of how to go about getting there.
McDowell said: "That is what I'm progressing towards, a run of form and consistency.
"You only have to look at the likes of Padraig and see how many times he finished second before he really broke through into the upper echelons of the world rankings.
"He has won a lot of great events around the world now and he got there through hard work and disappointment and he is now one of the best players in the world.
"I guess I look at my career and while it is not quite as long as Padraig's so far it has kind of had the ups and downs that his career has maybe had.
"He is certainly someone I have looked towards with his work ethic and the way he goes about things and he is certainly a guy I look towards to try and emulate a little bit."
Harrington took the 2006 Order of Merit thanks to his 30th career runner up finish and went on to take the Irish Open and the Open last year.
McDowell is eight years younger than the Dubliner but after ending his four year victory drought in the Ballantine’s Championship last month, he believes he’s right on track with his career again.
That win moved McDowell into the Ryder Cup frame and earned him a place in the WGC - CA Championship in Miami.
But after a three-week break at his base in Orlando, McDowell is raring to go again and determined to build on his fifth place in the Order of Merit and sixth in the Ryder Cup European Points list.
Facing a tough challenge from defending champion Markus Brier of Austria and joined in China by Ireland’s Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy, the Ulsterman can’t wait to get going again.
Set to play six events in seven weeks, he added: "My game is feeling pretty good. I'm coming off the back of a couple of weeks off and I've shaken the rust off the last couple of days.
"I'm getting ready for a pretty big run over the next three or four months.
"I like the look of this week and I like the way the golf course is set up and it will certainly separate the men from the boys.”
The Ulsterman finished in a three-way tie for second place behind runaway winner Brier at last year.
But the field also features a resurgent David Howell, who is hoping to build on his comeback performance in the Estoril Portuguese Open two weeks ago, where he lost to Gregory Bourdy at the third extra hole.
After seeing his career go into freefall after two years of injury and bad form, the English ace will feed on that performance and the memories of his HSBC Championship win over Tiger Woods in Shanghai at the end of 2005.