The duo have arrived at the Olazábal Course at the Mission Hills Golf Club with one thing on their minds – to bring home the magnificent World Cup trophy.
Not only are McDowell and McIlroy among the best players in the field this week, they also have one of the strongest friendships off the course of the 28 nations competing.
“It would mean a lot to win this tournament and that’s what we are here to try and do,” said McDowell. “The World Cup is one of the special tournaments in golf. We play a lot of individual golf, but getting a chance to play with a partner and representing your country and some of the great champions that have won this tournament, it would be a special feeling.
“Rory has said this before and I agree with him: we have a great chance to experience being in the hunt coming down the stretch with a partner and a friend, and sharing that experience will be pretty cool. There are a lot of great teams playing this week, and it would certainly mean a lot to us to take that trophy back to Ireland.
McIlroy echoed McDowell’s comments, and also dismissed any notion that he would lack motivation at this week’s event after just missing out on The Race to Dubai title to Lee Westwood at the Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World.
“It will be very easy for me to stay motivated,” said the 20 year old. “I want to play the best I can for my partner. I don’t want to let him down. We are playing for our country which is a huge honour, and I don’t think there would be any reason why I wouldn’t be motivated.
“This is a new challenge for me. Graeme has played here before, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my first taste of the World Cup, and I don’t think there should be any reason why I shouldn’t be motivated. I’m going to go out there and give it my best shot, and it would be a great title to win.”
While Ireland are looking to land the World Cup for the third time, the USA team of John Merrick and Nick Watney are looking to win the tournament for a record 24th time. The Americans, who last won the World Cup in 2000, have a formidable record in the event’s 55 year history. But Merrick and Watney are determined not to be overawed by the past deeds of their fellow countrymen.
“It’s an honour to represent the USA in this team competition,” said Merrick. “I haven’t played much team golf, so I’m excited. I think we’re both playing well this year, and we’re looking to come and play well and compete for the championship here. I think our games match up nicely for this format.
“We’re looking to play well, although I got an idea of how tough it will be when I was speaking to Fred Couples recently. I said to him: ‘Fred, how many did you play?’ Fred then tells me he played in five and won five and he says: ‘Yeah, good luck. You’ve got your work cut out for you!’”