Graeme McDowell relieved Colin Montgomerie is leading the charge for Europe
Europe will be much better placed to win the Ryder cup under Colin Montgomerie than they were with Nick Faldo in charge, says Graeme McDowell.
The Ulsterman played his heart out for Faldo two years ago at Valhalla in Kentucky — but in a losing cause as the Europeans meekly surrendered the crown they’d held since 2002.
“The spark was missing in the teamroom — we just didn’t have that X-factor,” he revealed.
“Sergio Garcia was on anti-biotics, so wasn’t his normal self, and then when Nick left out Lee Westwood, it had a negative effect. A guy like that should be playing all five matches.
“It was only on the Saturday evening on the eve of the Sunday singles that Jose Maria Olazabal (one of Faldo’s vice-captains) gave a stirring speech which lifted everyone.”
But it was a case of too little too late as the Americans swept to victory that afternoon.
McDowell also said that he was hugely disappointed not to have been picked by Faldo to play in the foursomes on the first morning two years ago.
“I felt I was playing very well in practice and should have been picked to play,” he said.
“I formed a good natural foursomes partnership with Miguel Angel Jimenez and felt we should have played.”
But he conceded: “Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, though, because I got a chance to go out and watch the other guys and I wasn’t so nervous when I did play in the afternoon and I played every game after that.”
Although he and Padraig Harrington lost to Phil Mickelson and a red-hot Anthony Kim in the Friday afternoon fourballs, he and Jimenez halved with Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan in the foursomes the following morning; with Ian Poulter he beat Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk that afternoon and he was a two and one winner over Stewart Cink in the singles, one of only four European winners.
Three days after McDowell had officially sealed his place on Faldo’s team, he still had not had a phone call from his captain. And famously during Faldo’s opening speech introducing his players, he asked McDowell: “Which part of Ireland are you from, north or south?”
Monty’s approach couldn’t be more different.
“We talked a fair bit and he rang me after my first round in Austria last week to say ‘well done’,” he said.
“Two years ago at Wentworth I was asked to measure up for a Ryder Cup suit but that was in the summer and I wasn’t sure of my place. I didn’t want to jinx myself by doing that.
“But Monty asked about 30 of us to get measured up and that made a big difference.
“He's an extremely organised and articulate guy and he is
leaving nothing to chance, putting in huge efforts over the simple things.
“It feels a lot more organised this time around. He looked at what happened two years ago and looked to see where he could improve.”
With the team containing six rookies, McDowell represents experience on the team this time around — as well as enhanced status as the reigning US Open champion.
And he’s determined to play a leading role.
“I’d love to be there with Rory on the first tee in the first match out on Friday morning,” he said.
“I’d love to play all five matches and if I’m playing well I’ll be happy to go out early in the Sunday singles if that’s the way Monty wants it.
“The thing about the batting order for the singles is there are several ways the captain can play it. Monty will know who is playing well and it’s all about form.
“I won the US Open but that was months ago and form changes. Padraig Harrington has not been playing well by his standards but Monty will be watching everyone in practice next week, will know who’s on top form, and will handle it from there.”
McDowell, after his third-place finish in Austria last week, his best showing since clinching the US Open title at Pebble Beach in June, spent much of the past week relaxing at home in Portrush.
And he’s hooking up with McIlroy for a practice round or two this weekend.
“I think myself and Rory are an obvious pairing — maybe too obvious, so it’s going to be interesting to see how Monty wants to play it,” he said.
“Naturally I’d like to play with Rory, but then he’s probably the most talented golfer I have ever seen and I think everybody on our team would want to play with him.”