McDowell handed Writers’ gong

Graeme McDowell has been recognised for his quite superb 2010 season by winning the Golf Writers’ Trophy.

Graeme McDowell has been recognised for his quite superb 2010 season by winning the Golf Writers’ Trophy.

The Ulsterman, who was favoured to win by those who like to bet on sports, becomes the first player from Northern Ireland and the fifth Irish golfer in total to win an award which dates back to 1951.

McDowell picked up the honour following a memorable year in which he clinched a maiden major title, added a further three victories worldwide and secured the decisive point in Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph.

His triumph at Pebble Beach in June was the first by a European at the US Open since Tony Jacklin some 40 years ago while he also won the Wales Open, the Andalucia Masters and the Chevron World Challenge where he beat host Tiger Woods in a play-off.

Europe’s Ryder Cup team finished second behind McDowell, just ahead of USPGA champion and European No.1 Martin Kaymer, with the newly-crown world No.1 Lee Westwood in fourth.

“I am hugely honoured to win such a prestigious award and especially in a year when European golf as a whole has achieved such amazing things,” stated McDowell.

Victorious Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie added: “In my 24 years as a member of the European Tour never have we had the success we have had this year.

“We have completely dominated the world of golf in 2010. It is amazing the quality we have now and it is not going to stop here. We can look forward to even more success in 2011.”

Laura Davies, who won five times on the Ladies European Tour, and Matteo Manassero, the 17-year-old Italian who became the youngest ever winner on the European Tour, both featured, while there was also support for Rory McIlroy, brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Miguel Angel Jimenez and British and US Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer.

Bill Elliott, chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “What a treasure chest our members had to choose from this year, but in the end I suspect that the abiding image of an exhausted Graeme McDowell clinching the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor just tipped it in his favour.

“Beating Tiger in California a week ago didn’t do the Ulsterman any harm either. Terrific stuff.”

Reflecting on his extraordinary year, McDowell added: “To win a major championship and to hole the winning putt in the Ryder Cup, these are absolute, ultimate golfing dreams for me.

“It has definitely been a life-changing experience the last few months and I feel incredibly lucky.

“I can’t get my head around it for sure now, but I feel very fortunate and privileged that I’ve had the opportunity.

“Every golfer wants to win majors, but the Ryder Cup was another stratosphere – trying to win it not just for me, but for 11 team-mates, for Colin (captain Colin Montgomerie), for all those fans, for Europe.

“I have never been so nervous. That 16th hole, they were the three greatest shots of my career.

“Under that pressure it was an amazing feeling, particularly as I was told on the fairway before I hit my second shot, that a half-point would not be enough and that I needed to win the match.

“It’s been a phenomenal few years for European golf in general and in particular British and Irish golf. Look at the number of players at the top of the world rankings and, of course, right at the top is Lee.

“He has been our most consistent player the last few years. He has worked extremely hard and thoroughly deserves to be up there. It has given all of us the belief that one day we may also reach that top spot.

“I cannot thank the team around me, my family and management, enough for their support this year and in the years ahead.

“I will have the same attitude in 2011 as I did in 2010, to work hard and to try to win some tournaments.

“How I perform will all be heavily scrutinised and that is understandable, but I’ll never try and compare it to 2010.

“I’m very aware of the pitfalls, complacency, expectation levels, really trying to change my game now that I’m a major champion and in the top 10 in the world.

“I’m looking forward to it and I know I have a huge amount of room for improvement, particularly in and around the greens and just sharpening up my whole game generally.”