Graeme McDowell is targeting an “extra special” victory for Ireland in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup and is relishing teaming up with close friend Rory McIlroy again.
The pair are hoping to go one better at Mission Hills Resort Hainan this week after they finished joint runners-up two years ago, when Italy took the title at Mission Hills Shenzen.
They combined to good effect in The 2010 Ryder Cup last October, claiming one and a half points from three as Europe claimed a thrilling narrow victory, and individually both players have reached the pinnacle of the game, McDowell winning the US Open Championship in 2010 and McIlroy following suit in the same tournament this year.
Now they are back in China and attempting to become the first Irish team to win the tournament since Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in 1997.
“I’m excited to be playing alongside Rory,” said McDowell. “He's in great form and the World Number Two. I guess you could say I've got myself a decent partner this week.
“You have to be able to motivate and inspire each other and enjoy the experience of being in contention and under pressure, and hopefully enjoy the experience of winning together.
“There's nothing quite like that team atmosphere in golf. It's a very individual sport and very few times do we get the opportunity to play as a team. It's extra special, especially when you're playing alongside one of your very good friends.
“Winning individually is nice, but winning as a team is something extra special and Rory and I would dearly love to win this week. So hopefully we can use our experiences of the last couple of years to good effect this week.”
McIlroy was equally effusive in his praise for his compatriot, who he credits with inspiring his world-beating form this season.
“Every time I play golf with Graeme is a lot of fun for me,” said 22 year old. “We have a really good time on the course. It's a partnership that's worked well in the past and I think we have a very good chemistry on and off the golf course.
“Watching everything Graeme did last year definitely did something to me mentally. It gave me that little bit of extra belief, seeing someone that you're so close to produce that type of golf.
“We came very close a couple of years ago. It would be great to get ourselves into the position again with a chance to win. We have won a few times as individuals on the golf course, but to win as part of a team is very, very special and it's not something that we really get to experience that much.
“So to be able to celebrate your wins with other people is great, and hopefully we'll be able to get that chance on Sunday night.”
The duo practised on Tuesday and have started to plan their tactics to tackle the Blackstone Course.
McIlroy said: “There are quite wide fairways, big bunkers abnd undulating greens. I think the key to this golf course is all about the second shots. Most of the teams are going to find it relatively simple to hit it into the fairway, and from there the course gets a lot more challenging.
“I think you really have to make your score in this event in the fourballs, and if you can pick up a three, four or five under par in the foursomes, that's a bonus.
“This golf course is going to be tricky. If you don't get the ball on the right level on the greens, it's going to be very difficult. There's hopefully going to be a few opportunities for birdies out there, but maybe the scoring at this course might not be as low as it was in Shenzhen.”
The United States has the best record in the World Cup, claiming 23 titles, and this year’s team of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, both making their debuts, are excited about attempting to add to the tally.
Kuchar, who last week won the President’s Cup with the USA, said: “You look at the history and the great past champions like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, and any time you can put your name on a list like that, or even just attempt to put your name on a list like that, it's a big deal. So I’m certainly excited.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to have back to back weeks representing the United States. Any time you can represent your home country is fantastic.”
Woodland, one of the longest hitters in the world off the tee, added: “The golf course is great, it's long. There’s a little room off the tee, which is a good thing for me.
“The bad thing is that if you hit it in the lava, you obviously hit a pretty poor shot and there's no going back. You're going to have to re tee.”