They might not get to play together at any stage but Graeme McDowell insists his partnership with Shane Lowry comes before individual honours in the $8m ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf at Royal Melbourne.
There is no team play element this year with players playing their own ball in all four rounds for the chance to win the individual title as well as the world ranking points and the lion’s share of the prize money.
Just $1m of the $8m pot is destined for the team element of a competition which reverts to 72 medal play with McDowell and Lowry’s aggregate scores counting for Ireland.
“We’re big on the team element. The World Cup will always be about the winning team and we’re passionate about standing there as the winning team on Sunday night,” McDowell said.
In an ideal world, the Irish stablemates will be in the final group on Sunday, butting heads for the individual title and dragging each other along to team glory.
But the face a tough test at Royal Melbourne where a jet-lagged McDowell played nine holes and walked the other nine shortly after arriving from Dubai on Tuesday.
Back at the venue for the first time in 12 years, McDowell knows that the Irish pair must not lose respect for the Composite Course.
“You’ve really got to respect it,” he is quoted as saying by Golf Digest Australia. “You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing out there because the wrong shot on the wrong line and the wrong shape at any given moment can get you in all sorts of trouble.
“I feel like it will bring the cream to the top, for sure. The top players will shine and the less experienced players will have a problem with this golf course.
“Shane and I are as good and experienced as anybody this week and, hopefully, we can be playing together late on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s just a great track that requires a lot of strategy, a lot of positioning of iron play coming into these fast and firm undulating greens.
“You don’t hit many drivers, maybe four or five max out there. Like a links golf course, the wind can change this course within the space of an hour, change the character of holes when the wind switches direction.”
Ranked behind only Adam Scott and American Matt Kuchar in the 60-player World Cup field, McDowell finished fourth on the European tour in another successful year with his three wins - the Volvo World Matchplay, the Alstom Open de France and the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour.
On World No 2 Scott, who has won his last two starts since returing to Australia for the first time since his Masters victory in April, McDowell said: “Scotty’s just one of those guys who you play with and think to yourself ‘why is this guy not winning every week?’ He’s that impressive.
“I had the pleasure, or displeasure, of playing with him in the last round of the Open championship last year, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he developed into the player that he is. He has always been an awesome player.”
Meanwhile, Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley was hugely impressed when he played Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg ahead of this week’s South African Open Championship hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, the first event of the 2014 European Tour season.
“I’ve never played here before, but I love the course,” said McGinley, who is joined in South Africa by Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Justin Brink.
“It’s fabulous, a throwback to tradition in the centre of one of the major cities of the world.
“It’s one of the best I’ve ever played, very visual, really well bunkered and extremely well set up. We don’t get to play on many traditional courses any more and I was delighted.
“I could see this as a real potential venue for a US Open if it was in America. It’s so reminiscent of the great courses in the United States, it would fit in very well.”
McGinley, who is heavily involved in course design and currently involved in course renovation projects in Ghana, sought out the number of Sean Quinn of Golf Data, who redesigned the greens at Glendower.
“Whoever did the green redesigns did a wonderful job,” McGinley said. “They are very cleverly designed and a nice speed too. It doesn’t look like there’s much slope, but there is and there are some very clever pin-placements too.”
The Irish contingent faces a tough task with the likes of former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel fancied to win on home soil.
Thankfully for the shorter hitters, the South African will not have a major advantage on a course with 64 bunkers and water on 11 of its 18 holes.
“There’s a big onus to hit the ball straight off the tee,” McGinley said. “It’s not the longest course, but there’s lots of water and there are right places to put the ball. You are going to have to set it up off the tee.”