Graeme McDowell admits he’s got his “beady eye” on his own captaincy – maybe at Adare Manor in 2027 – but he’s fascinated by Padraig Harrington’s preparations for Whistling Straits.
McDowell, the hero of the 2010 and 2014 Ryder Cups, is a vice-captain for the second time having aspired to playing again before the Covid break cost him momentum.
But now he’s submerged in the plans for what will be a hostile away match in Wisconsin this week, and taking notes all the while.
“When I won Saudi in 2020 and I was starting to play well, I had a wee head of steam going,” he said. “My dream of playing a Ryder Cup again was very much alive.
“But we obviously then had the break. After that, it’s been 15 months of hell for me. I’ve just not played well at all. But I will be at Whistling Straits trying to suck in the energy as much as I can.”
McDowell was in the team room for Thomas Bjorn’s stats-heavy approach in 2018. Harrington’s captaincy is even more “cerebral”, he says.
‘Padraig is very process-orientated’
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“I’ve enjoyed it so far,” he continued. “Padraig’s a very process-orientated person. You can see that how he goes about his own game and he is approaching the Ryder Cup with the same energy and intensity.
“I honestly don’t know how he gets the time. I know how hard he works on his own game. Every time we jump on a phone call I can’t believe how focus and engaged he is on Ryder Cup stuff.
“I’m enjoying the energy he brings and I’m hoping to selfishly use that energy myself.”
The 2018 matches in Paris were his first insight into what it took to be a captain, he added.
“I had a take of the behind-the-scenes feeling of what it takes to get 12 guys together, putting the chemistry together, the pairings, getting the right environment for the guys and the messaging and communication level.
‘It’s really a study of people’
“It’s really a study of the people. “Yes, we know how they are competitively because you see them out there and on TV. But they can be very different people off the course.
“Take Poults, for example. If he gets on the team, who do you put him with? There are certain guys that he works well with.
“He’s going to be beating his chest and going crazy. In the nicest possible way, not every player wants that. It’s a fantastic thing, but it doesn’t work for everyone.”
McDowell played at Valhalla in 2008 and Medinah in 2012, but expects the atmosphere to be even more hostile this time.
“The travel waivers haven’t happened,” he said. “That’s really disappointing, especially for first-time players as they won’t have friends or family with them.
“It’s a shame that European fans can’t go over and be part of the buzz. I remember in 2008 making a putt, going bananas then realising that it was total silence around the green. It was the most bizarre feeling ever.
‘Part of our mantra will be to silence them’
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“It is going to be weird for the guys, but the energy will be fantastic and I am sure that part of our mantra will be to silence them and if we start to hear silence, then we know good stuff is happening.”
But while fully engaged this week, McDowell still harbours a desire for one more match playing himself.
“I will be looking around thinking, ‘let’s be here in Rome in two years’ time. Let’s be out here with these guys’.
“There’s no reason why not. There’s Westy, Poults, Mickelson. I’ve had very few injuries in my career. The only thing that holds you back is the brain.”