Graeme McDowell is convinced that the excitement of the forthcoming Ryder Cup will help Rory McIlroy emerge from his mini slump and hit top form.
McDowell said last week that McIlroy’s globetrotting to see girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki was “wearing him down a little bit and we are seeing a little bit of fatigue.”
But he’s backing the Holywood ace to find the energy for September’s clash with the USA in Chicago, even though they face a potentially gruelling seven-event haul over the next nine weeks.
Joined by McIlroy and Michael Hoey for this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, G-Mac said: “Of all the weeks, the Ryder Cup is the one where if you went in a little bit tired, you can find it in the tank.
“We always try to avoid a tournament week feeling that we don’t want to be there, feeling like we don’t have the energy or the motivation but I think the motivation is automatic at the Ryder Cup.
“You have friends and colleagues who are going to pick you up off the floor. I don’t think there will be any lack of energy in that team room.”
McIlroy knows that he needs to find form to show skipper Jose Maria Olazabal he can lead the team from the front at Medinah.
Still top of the European Points List, Rory said: “The thing about Ryder Cup, I’m going to be left out if I’m not playing too good.
“But it’s fine. I’ve just got to stay patient and just keep working away and it will turn around. Everyone goes through little struggles.
“What I’m experiencing at the minute is frustrating at times, but it’s not anything that I can’t deal with.”
Recovered from his final round disappointment in The Open, McDowell celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday knowing he will have little time for more fun and games until after the Ryder Cup.
Following next week’s US PGA, he knows he could face four FedEx Cup play-off events in five weeks before heading to Medinah for the clash with Davis Love’s hungry Americans.
Looking forward to the challenge, McDowell said: “This is the meat and bones of the season and it’s a good time of the year to be playing well and feeling fairly fresh.
“There is no doubt about it, seven events in nine weeks is fairly intense. You want to be up for it, you want to be ready.”
McDowell cemented his third Ryder Cup cap when he finished fifth in the Open to move to second in the qualifying table behind partner McIlroy.
As the match winning hero at Celtic Manor in 2010, he revisited the site the day after his Royal Lytham disappointment and can’t wait to celebrate another European win.
McDowell said: “Believe me, I am fairly excited about it. It’s really nice to be able to pencil myself into that team list now. I spoke to Jose Maria the team captain last week and he is pretty excited.
“We are going to have a little bit of a get together next week at Kiawah Island because it will be the last time everyone is together between now and Medinah. So that’s exciting.”
Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, will not be in Akron but Reno, Nevada, chasing a victory that could revive his Ryder Cup hopes.
“It’s the biggest little city in America, here I come, Reno‑Tahoe,” Harrington said at The Open.
Ranked 62nd in the world, the Dubliner failed to make the top 50 who qualified for the WGC in Ohio for the first time since 1999.
He hasn’t spoken to skipper Jose Maria Olazabal about the possibility of a captain’s pick and is fully concentrated on trying to grab a win that would revive his chances of a seventh successive Ryder Cup cap.
“Nobody waits on a wild card,” he said at Royal Lytham. “I played with Ollie in South Africa, the Volvo Champions. I spoke to him there. All I know is I’m trying to win between now and‑the end of qualifying.”
Harrington is 28th in the European Points List - 1.21m points behind Italian Francesco Molinari, who holds down the fifth automatic place.
He’s better placed in the World Points List at 20th - 57.42 world ranking points behind Spain’s Sergio Garcia and even a win under the modified stableford system in Reno this week would leave him more than 30 points short.
“I know I’m playing nicely and the form is good, but as I said to him at Volvo, my plan is to play my way in so he doesn’t have to consider [a pick]. That’s the simplest thing… I don’t want to talk myself out of it, either.”
Victory in the US PGA at Kiawah Island next week would solve all Harrington’s problems at a stroke and it will be his last throw of the dice as qualifying ends at the Johnnie Walker Championship in Gleneagles the following week.
Harrington won’t be there as he tees it up in the first event of the FedEx Cup play-offs, the Barclay, at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course.
World ranking points earned at the New York venue won’t count towards Ryder Cup qualification though Olazabal has agreed to wait until after the US event concludes before naming his two wildcards to avoid a repeat of 2010 when Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Harrington - the ‘FedEx Four’ - were aware before the end of the final round of the Barclays who had been given the nod.
On that occasion skipper Colin Montgomerie opted for Harrington and Donald, as well as the Italian Edoardo Molinari. This time he may find it tougher to convince Olazabal that he can bring enough to the table at Medinah to justify one of just two picks this time