Making Europe's Ryder Cup team a realistic goal for Graeme McDowell, says Paul McGinley
Last Updated: 04/02/20 2:09pm
Graeme McDowell gave his Ryder Cup ambitions a huge boost with his win at the Saudi International, while Tony Finau needs to take the positives from another near-miss on the PGA Tour. Paul McGinley reviews the week in golf ...
Graeme McDowell is back in the winners' circle on the European Tour for the first time in five-and-a-half years, and he showed his fighting spirits with a high-quality field in his rear-view mirror in Saudi.
He had defending champion Dustin Johnson pushing him right to the very end, but Graeme has always had a great ability to close out a tournament when he gets the chance to do so, and he certainly displayed those qualities again on Sunday.
GMac is obviously keen to get back in Europe's Ryder Cup team as a player, rather than in the vice-captaincy role he had in Paris last time around. With Graeme's experience, he'd be the kind of guy that Padraig Harrington could turn to as one of his picks if he doesn't quite make the automatic qualifying.
He has the Ryder Cup pedigree, a great track record, and he clearly still has the priceless ability to perform under pressure. He'd be the ideal partner for one of the rookies, and this year's contest at Whistling Straits will be very much on his radar.
But, as much as he's made huge progress recently, there is still a long, long way to go yet and a lot of golf to be played before Padraig's team is finalised.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
Graeme still needs in the region of a million points between now and the BMW PGA Championship in September, and that's a big ask. But he's shown some great form early this year, in Hawaii and now in the Middle East, and he's trending in the right direction.
It was another win for a player in his 40s following Lee Westwood's emotional victory in Abu Dhabi, and further proof that it's just so difficult to predict the "peak" age for a professional golfer with any certainty.
We're seeing so many more younger players coming out on both main Tours and performing well, even those in their late teens and early 20s. Viktor Hovland is a prime example, and there are many who think he's going to be in Europe's Ryder Cup team this year.
But at the other end of the age and power spectrum, we're seeing guys like Graeme and Lee proving that age is no barrier to winning on Tour.
You wouldn't consider Graeme to be a big hitter of the golf ball, and that's to be expected now that he's the wrong side of 40 years of age. But his all-round game is clearly in great shape this year and, if he can continue that improvement, he's got a very good chance to get back in the Ryder Cup team.
Finau should stay positive
Over on the PGA Tour in Phoenix, Webb Simpson showed great competitiveness over the last six or seven holes at TPC Scottsdale to win for the first time since The Players in 2018. It looked like Tony Finau was going to do enough to win, and I found myself rooting for him as he's had several huge chances to add to his lone PGA Tour victory.
Tony has been in and around the world's top 10 for a while and his form has been stellar over the last couple of years, but getting over the winning line has proved difficult for him on a number of occasions now.
He didn't seem to do anything wrong on the final day in Phoenix, but I have to give a lot of credit to Webb Simpson. He had to birdie the final two holes in regulation just to force a play-off, and then he's holed another big birdie putt on the first extra hole to get the win.
It's now very important for Tony to look at what happened on Sunday in a positive way. He needs to realise that he did not lose this tournament, Webb came out and won it.
Tony should be very proud of how he performed all week in Phoenix, especially with the pressure of 800,000 spectators over the four tournament days. He can look at this as a big learning curve and convince himself he can compete on a regular basis.
I'm sure it's only a matter of time before everything starts falling his way and he'll win again soon, and I was very impressed with him on Sunday.
Another Pebble title for Phil?
After the wins for Lee and GMac, can Phil Mickelson strike another blow for the over-40s players at this week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am?
Phil is the defending champion after holding off Paul Casey last year, he showed some good form at the Saudi International and he could do it again in California. He's been playing well, last week was his first top 10 for a year, and this is a tournament he has won five times in his career so he obviously loves these three golf courses.
Phil is running into form at just the right time, and you cannot rule him out at one of his favourite tournaments. This is a tough event to pick a winner, but Mickelson is a genuine threat to contend for title No six.
After that, the big guns return to action in Los Angeles and we'll see the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods teeing it up at the Genesis Open.
And, over the next two months, there will be a lot of attention on the world's top players in the big US events as the anticipation builds in the run-up to The Masters.