McDowell on a Ryder Cup mission

Graeme McDowell is desperate to secure his Ryder Cup qualification in Sunday’s final round at the US PGA Championship.

The Northern Irishman produced a run of three top-10-finishes after a successful title defence at the French Open to lift himself into the automatic qualifying places at the start of the week’s action at Valhalla.

But with Luke Donald and Jamie Donaldson breathing down his neck, McDowell could still be forced to rely on a wild card pick – something he’d prefer to avoid.

“I want to be in the automatic spots if I possibly can,” said McDowell, who has just one qualifying event left on his schedule, the first FedEx Cup event in a fortnight’s time.

“I will be going out there tomorrow all guns blazing and trying to shoot a low number to finish the week. Ryder Cup is very, very important to me.

“I’m not uncomfortable. I’m optimistic about the way I’m playing, I’m optimistic about my chances of finishing in the automatic spots and I’d be fairly optimistic of the chances of a pick. I am not really too worried about it.

“My form the last couple of months has certainly shown the captain that I’m playing well. I will take a week off then get ready for the play-offs, keep some energy in the tank.

“I think I am pretty much guaranteed (to qualify for) the first three play-offs, but we are having our baby the second week so I will spend that week at home and experience that next chapter in my life.”

McDowell carded a level-par 71 on Saturday to finish the day one over par.

He made four birdies on the day but they were all cancelled out by a disastrous quadruple-bogey eight on the 13th, where he hit two approach shots into water surrounding the green.

“I played beautifully this morning, it’s so disappointing to make an elementary quadruple bogey, a card-wrecker, tournament-wrecker, weekend-wrecker, all of the above really,” McDowell added. “I think there might have been mud on the first ball but my second attempt was a bad shot.

“This was not really a course I was going to be able to compete on. I’m 71st in driving distance this week out of the 74 players who made the cut. The damage was done Thursday, I didn’t really feel myself. My lower back was in bad shape on Friday and this morning was the only day I felt ready for it.

“It’s a slog out there when you are only moving it 280 (yards) off the tee. You say ‘only’ 280 but it really is in this day and age when Jason Day is flying it 320, Rory is flying it 330. I am four shots behind these guys before I tee it up each day so I have to play very well elsewhere which I just haven’t done.

“I’m literally wearing the grooves off my 5-wood, 3-hybrid and my four and five irons.”

Donaldson, meanwhile, did his automatic qualifying bid no harm at all by posting a superb 66 in the third round at Valhalla on Saturday. He lies on eight under par, right near the top of the leaderboard.

“It’s for me to play well and take control and sort it out this week,” Donaldson said. “I’m just trying to go out there and play as well I can and shoot as low a score as I can. It’s one shot at a time and that’s all I can do really. Let everything take care of itself.

“I’m in a decent position. I played really well all day. A few more putts could have dropped and it would have been a really strong position.”