McDowell eyes Harrington partnership

Matchplay wizard Graeme McDowell hopes he can get handcuffed to Padraig Harrington for the rest of the Ryder Cup.

The Ulster rookie, 29, is bursting to play all five games at Valhalla and he reckons that having Harrington as his fourball partner will quickly revive the matchplay know-how that made him a terror to play at amateur level.

Determined to keep up Ireland's proud Ryder Cup tradition, McDowell said: "If I get myself handcuffed to Harrington for the week then that would be pretty cool. He’s obviously the best player in the world on two legs right now.

"I practiced with him yesterday and I’m going out there with him again today for nine holes. Maybe that bodes well, maybe I’ll get a game with him.

"If I want to play as many matches as possible I might want to get myself paired with a guy like that and win the first couple of games. I’m here to experience the whole deal and play as many games I possibly can at the weekend."

McDowell had an amazing matchplay record as an amateur but managed to take that form into the pro ranks with team victories in the Seve Trophy and the Royal Trophy.

Ryder Cup stalwart Lee Westwood believes the Portrush ace is a natural born winner, explaining: "Graeme is a very good front-runner when he gets a sniff of a title and gets under that kind of pressure, he invariably comes through."

That's because McDowell just hates to lose and he's sure that the Ryder Cup will bring out the old matchplay cunning and determination that saw him lift the Irish Close and South of Ireland titles as well as the 2001 Walker Cup on US soil.

He said: "I hate to lose like the next guy even though losing is part of the job sometimes and you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth in this game.

"But I think match play really suits me because you can put the blinkers on and get aggressive. I’ve always enjoyed match play.

"I played a lot of it growing up but not so much in the last few years. I am looking forward to getting back into that match play frame of mind, it’s a different space, there’s no doubt.

"There is no doubt that a little bit of gamesmanship goes on. Guys have their own views on how matchplay gamesmanship works. Giving putts, not giving putts. Slow playing the guy. Finishing out your putt on the green. I am looking forward to getting the old matchplay feelings going.

"I was pretty good at it. That's what I'm most excited about - getting that old matchplay intensity back. I can't wait to get alongside my partner and go after the other two guys."

McGinley picked up his matchplay know-how as an amateur but learned a massive amount when he played with Paul McGinley in Europe's 2006 Royal Trophy win over Asia.

Recalling McGinley's passion, McDowell said: "He is definitely a bit of a Rottweiler when it comes to matchplay and it was great to play with him. I am looking forward to playing with him in the World Cup because he was fun to play with.

"You learn from guys like that. But there is no doubt that matchplay is a different fish. You can play a lot more aggressively and you don't have to stick a six or seven down at the end of a hole if you hit it in the water. You can fire at pins and make eagles and birdies and be a bit more aggressive."

Ireland has produced droves of Ryder Cup heroes over the past 20 years with Harrington, McGinley, Eamonn Darcy, Christy O'Connor Jnr, Philip Walton and Darren Clarke playing a huge part in Europe's success.

And that's made McDowell even more determined to keep up the tradition in Kentucky this week.

He said: "I think the Ryder Cup is in every Irish golfer’s heart. The affinity we’ve had with the Ryder Cup over the years, the players who have holed the winning putts and, obviously, Darren at the K Club.

"The Ryder Cup is part of me and it’s something I’ve always dreamt of doing. I really set my stall out to play a couple of years ago and made it my goal to get to Valhalla. Now I’m here, I’m certainly going to enjoy myself."