World Cup of Golf: Graeme McDowell tips Adam Scott, Marc Leishman to star

Graeme McDowell is hoping for plenty of Irish support. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoGraeme McDowell believes Adam Scott and Marc Leishman can ride a wave of homegrown support to a World Cup of Golf crown but says the extra noise from the galleries could lead to added expectation on the fairways of Kingston Heath.

The Ulsterman will partner with Shane Lowry for the teams event in Melbourne starting on November 24 and won’t be surprised if a generous helping of Irish supporters come out of the woodwork to cheer them around the famous sandbelt course.

Even so, the 37-year-old knows Scott and Leishman will get the lion’s share of the backing in the 56-player field, although that could be a double-edged sword in the mixed format event that features pairs from 28 nations.

He remembers fan group “the Fanatics” from the 2013 event at Royal Melbourne, won by the Australian pairing of Scott and Jason Day, and wants to make sure he and Lowry are in the mix on Sunday to try and leverage the atmosphere for themselves.

“I think if we get a chance to play with the Aussie boys, it’ll obviously be great fun, great bit of banter. We’ll probably get a pretty good turnout with the Irish down there, as well. Certainly the few times I’ve been down, plenty of Irish in Melbourne,” McDowell said.

“I think Shane and I will probably get quite a lot of support, but again, nothing compared to what Scottie and Leishman will get. There is no doubt the home support and the home crowds can obviously give you the energy and buoy you a little bit, but it can also bring the expectation levels, as well.

“It’s always a tough balancing act when you’re playing at home. Scottie is obviously well used to it, plays a lot of golf down there, and one of the best players in the world. One of my favourite golf swings in the world.

“Like I say, hopefully we can get a chance to play with the boys late on Sunday and have some fun out there with the crowds.”

McDowell hasn’t won since the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico, where he returns this week to defend his title before his swing Down Under later in the month. Leishman will also line up in that field.

His drop in form has seen him slip to 81 in the world (he was as high as four in 2011) but he firmly believes the turnaround is near and expects much bigger returns in 2017, perhaps using the World Cup as a springboard back to shape.

And the recent win of 47-year-old Queenslander Rod Pampling, who broke a decade-long run of PGA Tour outs with victory in Las Vegas, has shown him it’s not just a young man’s game, even if he concedes to feeling like an elder statesman as the twenty-somethings dominate the top 10 rankings.

“In their early to mid-20s these guys are great athletes and are really prepared to win the best tournaments in the world so perhaps the mid-30s isn’t the prime of your career any more,” McDowell said.

“Then you look at guys like Rod Pampling and you see guys playing well into their 40s and even into their 50s.

“Golf is one of those sports where if you stay healthy and, even more importantly, if you stay mentally hungry and fresh and motivated, you can play well for as long as you want.”

Pampling will be part of the field for the Australian Open in Sydney from November 17 but defending champion Matt Jones has withdrawn in an effort to retain his PGA Tour card in the US.

Scott (world No.6) and American Jordan Spieth (world No.5) headline the open field at Royal Sydney, while Scott and Pampling will also head to Royal Pines for the Australian PGA Championship after the World Cup.

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