McDowell ready for another shot at glory

Graeme McDowell celebrates his birdie on the 16th in the final singles in 2010

McDowell ready for another shot at glory

At Celtic Manor, Graeme McDowell was the hero of the European Team when he claimed the winning point, sparking incredible celebrations. Two years on, and the the Northern Irishman would love a repeat performance

The enduring image of the 2010 Ryder Cup unquestionably was Graeme McDowell celebrating, arms aloft, following his vital victory over Hunter Mahan in the decisive Singles match at The Celtic Manor Resort, and the Northern Irishman would relish the chance reprise that role once more.

McDowell sealed his place in Ryder Cup folklore when, with the outcome of the Ryder Cup firmly in the balance, he holed a pressure putt on the 16th hole of the final match, before sealing a memorable victory on the 17th.

Two years on, the Northern Irishman will once again be central to Europe’s bid to retain the Ryder Cup at Medinah.

A natural partner for World Number One and compatriot Rory McIlroy, McDowell has shown in the past two Ryder Cups that he is a formidable match play opponent and a Ryder Cup tour de force.

In his debut in Valhalla four years ago, McDowell excelled on American soil, winning two-and-a-half points out of four, including an impressive Singles victory over Stewart Cink.

But that proved to be merely a warm up for the main act to follow two years later. McDowell went to Wales on the back of claiming his maiden Major Championship, becoming the first European to win the US Open Championship for 40 years with victory at Pebble Beach four months earlier.

Yet even that remarkable personal achievement was outshone by the dramatic finale at The Celtic Manor, when McDowell was cast as Europe’s hero.

Having already secured one-and-a-half points out of three alongside McIlroy in the Fourballs and Foursomes, McDowell anchored the European challenge in the Singles, in an encounter that will live long in his memory and the minds of all European fans.

McDowell's decisive moment arrived on the par-four 16th, as he calmly drained a superb 15-foot putt to put him two up with two holes to play, piling the pressure on Mahan, who subsequently offered his hand on the following hole. The putt, which afterwards McDowell said was the best of his life, was named the European Tour’s Shot of the Year in 2010, and the 33 year old would relish the chance to secure the winning point once again.

“I'd love the responsibility,” he said. “I'd have that peace of mind of knowing I can do it. Would I pull it off? Someone might shoot 64 on me.

“I don't see myself playing near the top of the order in the singles. You leave that to the most charismatic members of the team, like Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia and maybe Rory. I see myself as a plodding kind who can beat anyone on his day and grind out a point for the cause. So yes, it might come down to my match again. And if it does, I'll be ready.

“I'm sure Poults (Ian Poulter) is like me in that he leaves the Ryder Cup wishing he could bottle the intensity he feels that week. We're probably guys who need to play at an eight out of 10 intensity to operate at our best but all too often on a Thursday at a strokeplay event we're probably just a five or a six.

“At the Ryder Cup, of course, the lowest you're operating on is eight. Talking to you now, I can feel the buzz of it in my brain. It switches me on.”

McDowell might be without a victory so far in 2012, but he further underline his reputation as a player for the big occasion by finishing runner up in the US Open Championship, and tied fifth in The Open Championship. Indeed, his form in the Majors this year has been impressive, also finishing tied 11th in the US PGA Championship and tied 12th in the Masters Tournament.

He also reminded everyone of his affinity for match play by reaching the final of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain in May, losing to Ryder Cup Teammate Nicolas Colsaerts.

Confidence, therefore, should not be a problem for the self-deprecating man  from Portrush, who is happy to see himself referred to as one of Europe’s great fighers.

"I am not a top pedigree racehorse like a Rory McIlroy,” he said. “Things come easy to a guy like that, he has talent coming out of his ears. A guy like myself has to dig it out a little more and maximise my game in other areas.

“I have always been a great putter, always been a very straight driver of the ball. I try to make the rest of the stuff work. Having a great short game, being a great putter, is always a massive weapon when it comes to match play."

Should José María Olazábal need a player he can rely on when it comes to the crunch on Sunday afternoon, McDowell is ready to be Europe’s hero once again.