Ryder Cup 2014: Graeme McDowell - why I can’t play with Rory McIlroy any more

G-Mac denies split is due to management company issues and says he needs to lead or his game dips

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The Independent Online

The bulletins issued from a Dublin court room last week might be reason enough to keep Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy apart this weekend in the thinking of the European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

McIlroy’s legal dispute with his former management company threatens to drag McDowell’s name through the midden as a result of the disclosure process and the contractual revelations therein, not the best way to bring the European huddle together. Yet it is not personal tension splitting their Ryder Cup brotherhood, rather a new dynamic brought about by McIlroy’s rise to the top of the world game.

During McIlroy’s Ryder Cup initiation as a 21-year-old at Celtic Manor in 2010, McDowell readily accepted the role of chaperone. As the recently crowned US Open champion, McDowell was a senior figure in the team room and took the talented kid from the outskirts of Belfast under his wing.

Four years on, the picture has changed dramatically. McIlroy comes to Gleneagles the alpha beast of world golf, a four-time major winner and the player setting the agenda on both sides of the Atlantic. In a searing burst of honesty McDowell explained how that shift in power has given him, for want of a better expression, an inferiority complex and renders them unpairable in the fourball format as far as he is concerned.

“Our personal issues have been well documented over the last couple years,” McDowell said here. “And I believe that we’ve both come out of the other end of that probably better friends than we were going into it. So our personal issues are not a problem this weekend, so that’s a fact.

“Tactically Rory and I’s golf dynamic has changed significantly from the first time we ever played together back in 2009 at the Seve Trophy. The older brother, kind of younger brother leadership role that I had with him, that’s changed. He’s the world’s No 1 player. He’s a four-time major champion. The dynamic between him and me is changed for ever.

 

“He would now be the leader of the two of us and perhaps the dynamic doesn’t work as well as it did in the past. Perhaps I’m the kind of guy that needs that leadership role a little bit, who needs to feel like he is at least on a level with the guy he’s playing with.

“I’ll be the first to admit it. At Medinah a couple years ago Rory and I spoke about this. I found the better-ball [fourball] format very difficult with him because he likes to go first. I let him at it, and I kind of came second. He’s standing there beating it 350 down the middle, and I put my tee in the ground thinking there’s not really a lot of point in me hitting this tee shot and finding myself throwing myself at it.

“It didn’t help my game much at Medinah playing better-ball with him. Foursomes is different. I think we could still play foursomes really well together. I’ve spoken to McGinley about this, as well, because he felt like himself and [Padraig] Harrington were the same way.

“They gelled well as a partnership in their early days, but when Harrington became the star, the dynamic changed from a tactical point of view. It just didn’t work so well any more. So I kind of feel that’s the way Rory and I are viewing this week.”

Video: Gallacher on Ryder Cup ambitions

McDowell had a subdued Ryder Cup in Chicago, where, after an initial win with McIlroy in the foursomes format, they lost twice. In six outings across two Ryder Cups they have recorded only two wins as a pairing.

Not surprisingly McGinley is eyeing a different role for McDowell. The hope is the Frenchman Victor Dubuisson is up to it. “I’ve heard him [Dubuisson] described as an enigma, just a tough guy to kind of get your head around what he’s thinking,” “G-Mac” added. “Obviously, he doesn’t lack for talent. His sort of relaxed mood, personality, could be confused with maybe intimidation and nervousness.

“I’ve been trying to get close to him the last few months and spend a little time with him. He’s a great guy. We do have a great team room this week with some dynamic personalities, and Victor I think can bring a huge amount to the team. I would very much embrace the task of blooding a guy like Victor. I would love to play with him.

“We are talking about that happening. I’m one of a few guys that could potentially do that. He’s a very talented kid and definitely someone we are trying to pay a bit of attention to in the team room this week and make sure any questions that are in his mind get answered to put his mind at rest and get him ready to play some great golf.”

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McDowell arrives at Gleneagles restored after a string of strong performances at the height of summer, including a win at the French Open which was enough to earn automatic qualification for Gleneagles, and his first immersion in fatherhood.

The “nappy factor” as he calls it, is a process guaranteed to bring a new perspective to proceedings. It has also triggered an appreciation of the role his parents played in his own development, particularly that of his mother, who suffers from muscular sclerosis.

It is to her that he attributes the qualities that define him as a golfer, his tenacity, fearlessness and willingness to take responsibility, all of which have at different times led him to take the game by the throat, including the sinking of the winning putt on the 16th hole at Celtic Manor as well as hitting the opening tee shot at Medinah.

“I’ve been blessed with some level of fortitude. I guess I always wondered where I got it from. Over the last 10 years I have worked it out that I got it from my mum. She’s a pretty tough cookie and MS sufferer, and she’s a very strong person. The one thing that she did give me is perspective and some strength of mind. Hopefully, I would love to get a chance to test it out again this weekend.”

Not easy Ryders: G-Mac and Rory’s record

McIlroy and McDowell have played together three times at both of the last two Ryder Cups – winning just twice.

2010: Celtic Manor (Europe won)

Day one fourballs Halved with Cink/Kuchar

Foursomes Lost to Cink/Kuchar by 1 hole

Day two foursomes Beat Z Johnson/Mahan 3 & 1

2012: Medinah (Europe won)

Day one foursomes Beat Furyk/Snedeker by 1 hole

Fourballs Lost to Mickelson/Bradley 2 & 1

Day two foursomes Lost to Furyk/Snedeker by 1 hole

Ryder record as a pair:

Fourballs P2 Halved 1 L1

Foursomes P4 W2 L2

Overall P6 W2 Halved 1 L3

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