Captaincy can wait; McDowell inspired to play another Ryder Cup

Captaincy can wait; McDowell inspired to play another Ryder Cup
Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell admits that Europe’s thrilling victory has reignited his desire to make the team in 2020 and put his captaincy ambitions on hold.

After playing in four Ryder Cups, claiming the match-clinching point at Celtic Manor in 2010, he’s missed the last two editions and recognises that having the respect of Europe’s new breed of young guns at Le Golf National has made him feel good about himself again and rekindled his desire to play again.

“Obviously, I am not a whole lot older than some of these guys in the team room but you can have an impact on the likes of an Alex Noren or a Tyrrell Hatton and see that they do respect you as a player and what you have achieved,” McDowell said. 

“They are the best young players in the world right now and you think, ‘Why do they want to listen to me for as someone who hasn't played his best for a few years?’ 

“So it's nice to be able to have an impact on these guys and tell them stuff they don't know. Having played four, it's nice to feel they respect you.”

McDowell will be 40 next year and knows that as he may have to wait until 2026 at least before he can be considered a potential captain, making the team again as a player is an ambition worth cherishing.

He might be the perfect age to captain in 2026, when Adare Manor would be the likely venue. But he's keener than ever now to play again, especially after watching players like Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter excel in their 40s in Paris.

“It was great to be part of the backroom start this week,” the two-time French Open champion and 2010 US Open champion said. 

“But it was a little bittersweet. I'd love to have been part of the team and playing with the boys on a golf course I love so much."

He felt the intimidation factor of Le Golf National and Europe’s comfort level there was key to the 17.5-10-5 victory.

But also watched the influence senior players like Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia had in the team room and pointed to Thomas Bjorn’s attention to detail as key, especially his use experienced players.

The Dane had former match-winning Ryder Cup heroes make short videos for the players in the last four singles berths — ninth man Paul McGinley from 2002, 10th man Colin Montgomerie from 1997, 11th man Martin Kaymer from 2012 and McDowell, who was the anchorman at Celtic Manor in 2010.

“I did a video for No 12 just to explain to them what goes on," McDowell said. "It was really cool. It just gave these guys the reference point to understand what it means to be there and then all of a sudden, if your match becomes pivotal, that you can achieve and you can be the guy.

“I delivered the No 9 package to Frankie Molinari to help him understand what he was going to feel out there today and he said, ‘Everything you said came true."

Bjorn explained his thinking there, adding: “I prepared for something that was really tight.  When it's tight, it comes down to those singles between 9 and 12.  I was thinking, how do I get that mental across to those guys.  I stood on that first tee yesterday and experienced how great when Rory teed off, everybody is on the grounds on the first and the second and as the day goes on, it empties out and when Alex teed off, it's a pretty lonely place, a bit like it is now, coffee cups floating around, like the day after.  That's the feeling and that's a difficult place to be.  So how do I get that message across to them?  

“Well, I sat down and I made four videos. There's one with McGinley from 2002 and one with Monty from '97 and one of Martin from 2012 and then one with Graeme from 2010 when they were in those singles matches, and they told the story to camera about what they experienced.  

“And then you see how the day progresses from early on how there's nobody to impact, how those singles matches become in the end.  So give them an idea that it might actually come down to my match, and that it most likely is going to come down to my match, so they were prepared in their heads, and I can sit there and say it to them. 

“They say it to each other, but sometimes pictures are better than words.  It was just an idea.  I don't know if it had any impact but it certainly had an idea.

Feeling valued by the team, and Molinari in particular, was important to McDowell. 

Whether it leads to a resurgence in his game remains to be seen but he's confident he still has more to give, not just in the locker room but on the golf course too.