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Quartet back on familiar soil

Four of October's Ryder Cup team, including match-winner Graeme McDowell, are back at Celtic Manor this week for the Saab Wales Open.

Defending champion McDowell, who won the title last year with closing rounds of 64 and 63 and two weeks later added the US Open, is joined by Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Captain Colin Montgomerie and assistants Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn will also be able to relive Europe's thrilling one-point victory in a match forever to be remembered for McDowell's heroics and the rain which sent the match into an extra day.

With only two weeks to go to the defence of his major in Washington, McDowell will be looking to hit back from missing the cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last Friday.

The Ulsterman played the first two rounds with eventual winner Luke Donald and said of the new world number one's opening 64, 11 shots better than he managed: "He was magnificent - has been for a long time. He's amazing how he can keep it going."

While Donald has had nine successive top 10 finishes, including two big wins, McDowell has had a real rollercoaster ride over the same three-month period. That was perfectly illustrated at the Players Championship three weeks ago. Leader by three after 17 holes of the third round he double-bogeyed the last and then crashed to a closing 79.

While he has to go back only to December for his last victory, though, Fisher, Hanson and Jimenez have not tasted success since the match against the Americans.

Reigning Irish Open champion Fisher even had to go to US Open qualifying at Walton Heath on Monday after falling outside the world's top 50.

Like Montgomerie the 30-year-old shot a one over par total and missed out by five strokes, but there is another cut-off point for the top 50 a week on Sunday and Fisher, fifth at Bethpage Black on New York's Long Island two years ago, is currently 52nd.

Hanson only just avoided the same event after slipping to 50th last week, but even at 47 - the same age as Montgomerie - Jimenez still holds a place in the game's top 30 and a month ago was runner-up to Lee Westwood in Korea.


From Belfast Telegraph