By Brian Keogh
Manchester United fan Graeme McDowell doesn’t believe that Nick Faldo needs any hair-dryer support from the likes of Alex Ferguson when the European Ryder Cup team hunkers down in the team room at Valhalla in four months’ time.
“He doesn't need Fergie in there flinging cups of tea around the place and kicking boots,” said McDowell, who spent part of is pre-BMW PGA Championship preparations making plans to watch tonight’s Champions League showdown with Chelsea. “ think he’ll be a fantastic captain. All that’s happening now is just media relations. Picking the team and what he does in that team room in September is going to be the important part."
Currently seventh in the Ryder Cup rankings, McDowell revealed that Faldo sidled up to him during March’s CA Championship in Miami to congratulate him on his victory in the previous week’s Ballantine’s Championship.
“He came out on the golf course and said hello, well done in Korea and keep it up,” said McDowell, who hopes to bounce back to form after missing the cut at Adare Manor last week. “That was pretty much it.”
With €750,000 on offer for the winner, a big performance by the Ulsterman at Wentworth would put him a step closer to Ryder Cup glory in September.
But like his fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, the only silverware that interests him is the Champions League trophy and the Red Devils’ battle with arch-rivals Chelsea tonight.
Like Wentworth specialist Ernie Els, McDowell and McIlroy have resisted the temptation to charter a jet to take them to Moscow to see their beloved Manchester United in action.
Their only worry is this evening’s annual players’ meeting, cruelly scheduled for 6pm by Liverpool fan and players’ committee chairman Thomas Bjorn.
Whatever burning issues emerge, McIlroy and McDowell have no plans to hang around if things over-run. “By seven o’clock there’ll be a mass exodus,” McDowell said. “I’ll certainly be one, I imagine.”
But McIlroy has his own contingency plan, revealing: “I think I’ll go to the players’ meeting in my United top and jeans and then go down to watch the match in Sunningdale. Moscow’s just too far away.
“I’ve seen United a few times this year and I genuinely do fancy them tomorrow night, though it’s a Cup final, so it’s going to be edgy.”
A regular at Old Trafford, where he holds two season tickets, McDowell worked on his game yesterday before ordering his caddie and fellow Man United fan Ken Comboy to scout locations for Champions League viewing tonight.
“Ken is a Red as well and he will be on a reconnaissance mission tonight,” McDowell said. “More important than mapping out the course today is finding somewhere to watch the match where we can have nice sound, a bit of food and a bit of crack.”
Ireland has always has a close connection with Manchester United and McDowell traces his love of the club back to the days when Belfast’s George Best set the game alight with his mesmeric skill on the wing.
“My dad was a massive fan,” McDowell said. “And we just grew up as Man United fans. It's Georgie Best, isn't it. My older brother is named after George Best.”
McIlroy is too young to remember Best but recalls being stunned to see the Belfast genius’ funeral televised live when he played an event in Australia three years.
“I wasn’t even born when he was playing but the size of the funeral and the fact that it was on TV in Australia just made me realise how good he was,” McIlroy said. “Some of the goals he scored were just unbelievable.”
As for this week’s Wentworth test, the teen sensation didn’t get to play his planned practice round with course specialist Els and headed out at 8 am with stablemate Ross MacGowan instead.
“Ernie couldn’t play until 2.30 and I didn't want to play that late,” McIlroy said. “But I liked the course, even though it has changed a bit since I last played here.
“I think it similar to Adare last week and I don't think that anyone will go ridiculously low. I've got a good bit of confidence coming in and I'm hitting it nicely. I knew my game was there and it was just a matter of doing it.”