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Darren Clarke a Ryder ‘must’: McDowell

By Bernie McGuire

Graeme McDowell believes the experience Darren Clarke would bring to the European Ryder Cup team makes it paramount that he is presented with a wild-card pick.

Clarke emerged as a favourite for one of Nick Faldo's two picks after winning last week's KLM Open.

Faldo's second choice seems wide open, but the signs are that it will be Ian Poulter, currently ranked 12th on the points table.

The English golfer surprised many, including McDowell and Clarke, by his absence from starting the Johnnie Walker Championship, the final event of the qualifying process.

McDowell is returning to competition after sharing 15th place in the US PGA Championship and the 29-year old Ryder Cup rookie has split his time up between Orlando and Ireland in preparation for next month's long-awaited debut in European colours.

"I didn't play much golf when I was in Orlando, while last week I had a few days in Dublin and then I was up at Portrush playing with my sports psychologist Karl Morris, who came over and spent a bit of time with me.

“I'm really pleased to be back in competition, but I'm also so delighted that I'm not on the Ryder Cup bubble and facing the anxiety of whether or not you are going to make the team.

"There's enough to focus on this week without having that added stress, so I am very happy.

"I've worked very hard this year on trying to focus on my goals and planning my schedule properly.

“Playing well at the right time is something you can never plan for, but I really paced myself well this season.

"I played well at the correct times and secured my place on the team early.

"This gave me the cushion to take the last two weeks off and to come here this week and watch it all unfold while I concentrate on the tournament."

McDowell indicated he was also in contact with Clarke throughout last week and the first text message back from his fellow Ulsterman was after his opening round in Holland which stated that he was working hard to be his partner at Valhalla.

"It was just fabulous to see Darren win, because he's now put himself prime position and we are going to need guys like him on the team," said McDowell.

"The Ryder Cup is going to be an unbelievable experience and guys like Darren and Lee Westwood are going to be so pivotal to the success of the side, given that I'm one of four rookies currently in the team.

"That's why I am pulling for Darren as one of the picks.

"I would love to tee it up in the fourballs or foursomes with Darren as my partner.

“And I've been bouncing that possibility off him already — it would be so fantastic.”

McDowell was was not as upbeat about Paul McGinley's chance of a 'pick', despite his runner-up finish to Clarke in Holland.

"I don't feel Paul's shown good enough form during the qualifying period, whereas Darren's won twice.

“If it was me I would pick Darren and (Ian) Poulter," said McDowell.

Another man who would be the choice of many fans would be Colin Montgomerie, but his form suggests he has little chance of getting the nod from Faldo.

Belfast Telegraph


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