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McDowell ready to fill Harrington's shoes

By Peter Hutcheon

Graeme McDowell is set to represent Ireland at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China at the end of the season if Padraig Harrington again opts to give the competition a miss.

Harrington, as the leading Irishman on the world rankings, has first refusal but did not play last year as Ireland had to pre-qualify for the event.

Ulster pair Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin took up the mantle and then came through qualifying in the Caribbean, going on to a respectable performance in China.

Double Open champion Harrington has already indicated that he is unlikely to want to play that week at the end of November so the honour would pass to McDowell, who in 29th place, is the next highest placed Irishman on the world rankings by quite a distance after his two tournament wins this season.

He then could choose his playing partner and although with the Ryder Cup first and foremost in his mind at the moment, he hasn't given it too much thought, Rory McIlroy may be the obvious man to bring with him.

Ireland currently lie in second place in this year's qualifying table behind the United States, thanks largely to Harrington's Open win at Royal Birkdale last month. The top 18 make it to China without having to pre-qualify.

"Obviously being on the Ryder Cup team is Graeme's main priority this year but he would be delighted to represent Ireland at the World Cup," said his manager Conor Ridge.

"It's not definite that Padraig won't play but we should know in a couple of weeks what the position is."

Last year Hoey and Maybin, who play on the European Challenge Tour, came 24th out of the 28 competition nations as Scottish pair Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren pipped Americans Heath Slocum and Boo Weekley to the title.

The next highest ranked Irish player behind McDowell in the world is Darren Clarke at 105 but he, like Harrington, passed up the chance to play last year as did Paul McGinley.

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