Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

McGladery Classic: Graeme McDowell walking tall at the Seaside

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell had an historic former visit to Georgia on his mind as he touched down in Sea Island for this week's McGladery Classic, penultimate event in the PGA Tour's angst-riddled ‘Fall Series'.

Not that McDowell is the least bit troubled about his playing credentials for next season or several to come following his victory at the 2010 US Open.

Indeed, the Ulsterman is in ripe good humour following his best finish of the season in a tie for third at the recent Dunhill Links, not to mention his return to Sea Island, scene of one of the greatest achievements of his career.

McDowell was a member of the GB&I team which made history 10 years ago by winning the Walker Cup for the first time on American soil at Ocean Forest, which shares the same stretch of Atlantic coast as this week's tournament venue, The Seaside Course.

“It's nice to return here,” he enthused. “I've such fond memories from 2001. We'd a great team including fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and World No1 Luke Donald, who I can only describe as the Iron Man of golf right now.”

Neither Hoey, named European Tour Player of the Month for September this week after his victory at the Dunhill Links, nor Donald will be in action this week but a few famous faces from the US team they beat tee it up at The Seaside today.

They include Bryce Molder, who clinched his maiden PGA Tour victory in a riveting climax to last Sunday's Frys.com Open.

Meanwhile, Molder's 2001 Walker Cup comrades, James Driscoll and DJ Trahan are among those fighting to hold on to their US playing credentials this week.

Driscoll currently is 122nd in the money list and Trahan 130th. The top 125 after next week's Children's Miracle Network Classic in Florida keep their cards for 2012.

Also on the cusp is Paul Casey, currently 127th with $590,134 (£374,3768) won in 14 tournaments this year, one shy of the minimum 15 required by US Tour regulations.

Having shaken off a persistent foot injury, Casey won in Korea a fortnight back; followed-up with a share of seventh at the Frys.com Open and could go close this week.

Doubtless, Rickie Fowler (22), will be buoyed by his first win at the Kolon Korea Open last Sunday but the long haul across 13 time zones from Seoul home to America may count against him this weekend. In contrast, Portrush hero McDowell (32), is fit, fresh and ready to win for the first time in 2012 in an ocean shore setting reminiscent of former glories and home.

Meanwhile, A freak foot injury may threaten Padraig Harrington's hopes of extending the longest run of appearances in the World Golf Championships.

Harrington bruised his left foot on Tuesday night while training in the gym at the Portugal Masters on-course hotel at Villamoura.

The pain was so intense during yesterday's Pro-Am, he had to remove his left golf shoe and Harrington was observed walking in his sock while phoning for physio Dale Richardson to meet him on the Victoria course's ninth hole.

Richardson applied a bandage and Harrington was expected to receive further treatment later on.

Harrington has played more World Golf championships than any other player, but needs to end his three-year victory drought on the major tours in Portugal if he's to extend that record to 39 WGCs at next month's $7m (£4.4m) HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Cut-off point for Shanghai qualification is Sunday night and Harrington needs to rise from World No 78 and get inside the top 25 to qualify.

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