G-Mac expects tough Ryder battle

Graeme McDowell believes he faces a tough task to book his place on Europe’s 2012 Ryder Cup team.

Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell believes he faces a tough task to book his place in Europe’s team to defend the trophy in Chicago next year.

McDowell secured the winning point at Celtic Manor 12 months ago, capping a brilliant season which also saw him win his first major title in the US Open at Pebble Beach.

He has struggled to reproduce that kind of form since then, but after recently turning to former coach Clive Tucker to revitalise his game, the 32-year-old carded an opening 67 at Kingsbarns to lie just one shot off the lead in the Dunhill Links Championship.

And he admitted the start of the qualifying race for next year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah had also given him the extra motivation he had been looking for.

“For a guy who has been struggling for a little bit of motivation, somehow when the Ryder Cup qualifying went off a few weeks back it gets your attention, starts you focusing and helps you build toward something,” McDowell said.

“I have a huge amount of respect for Ollie (Europe team captain Jose Maria Olazabal) and I want to be part of that Ryder Cup team very badly because I think he’s going to be an unbelievable captain and it’s going to be a great experience that week.

“And I think it’s going to be one of the hardest-fought Ryder Cup teams to be a part of. I know how well I’m going to have to play to be on the team and it’s given me a lot of focus.”

McDowell was one of six players to finish the opening day of the Dunhill pro-am event one shot off the lead, with former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen sharing top spot at six under alongside Austria’s Markus Brier, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey.