Why Graeme McDowell Thinks He Might Never Be A Ryder Cup Captain

The Northern Irishman believes next year's Ryder Cup may be his only chance to lead Team Europe

Why Graeme McDowell Thinks He Might Never Be A Ryder Cup Captain
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If not now, then when? That’s the question Graeme McDowell is asking himself when it comes to Ryder Cup captaincy. Playing alongside Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker’s recently announced successor for next year’s match in Rome, the topic was at the forefront of the Northern Irishman’s mind following an impressive four-under 68 to begin the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

However, at age 42, McDowell believes he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level, admitting he isn’t “quite ready” to hit the brakes on his own career and accept his best days are behind him. 

He said: “I'm obviously playing with Zach [Johnson] this week, walking around thinking maybe should I throw my hat in and go with him? I just don't think I'm quite ready. Part of me would love to because part of me thinks, if I don't take this one, I might not get it, which would be disappointing.

“But I kind of have to put my own individual career first. I desperately want to get back playing consistently well at a high level again rather than maybe taking my attention away and taking the Ryder Cup captaincy. Maybe part of me would be suggesting that I'm not good enough to make the team.

“Are there 12 better players than me in Europe right now? I've got to ask myself that question. If I'm out here doing what I'm doing, I have to say there's not 12 guys better than me, and I'm good enough to make the team.

“To be able to compete at a high level, I have to have that belief. If I take the captaincy then that belief is not there. It makes it hard for me to compete. That's what the decision's got to come down to. I'd love to be captain one day, but if I don't take it this time, I'm well aware that I might miss.”

Graeme McDowell at the 2010 Ryder Cup

McDowell secured the winning point for Team Europe at the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In four successive Ryder Cup appearances from 2008 to 2014, McDowell was part of three winning teams and amassed an overall record of 8-5-2. He also served as a vice-captain for Thomas Bjorn and Padraig Harrington.

However, asked why he thinks this could be his best chance to lead his continent in the famous biennial dust-up, McDowell cited the long conveyor belt of European legends that are coming to the end of their careers and that perhaps have stronger cases.

“There's too many great guys stacking up. There's too many great players. There's going to be seven or eight guys vying for the next five or six. Someone's going to miss.

"When you're talking about [Lee] Westwood and [Sergio] Garcia and Justin Rose, you're talking about top, top European players, of which I am one, but those guys have maybe slightly different credentials than me. The way we do it in Europe to a certain extent where we take the legends and the guys that deserve to be there and we give them that honour, I think that's OK.

“It opens the debate: Should it be great leaders of men, or should it be guys that are legendary players that deserve to be Ryder Cup captains? To me, the captains that have been thrown under the bus over the years, it's a bit unnecessary because it comes down to the players at the end of the day, and there's not really a whole lot the captain can do to help the guys hole putts.”

The ongoing Saudi golf league saga means Team Europe has had to delay announcing Harrington’s successor. Westwood ruled himself out late last year, leaving Henrik Stenson as the front-runner until reports emerged that he was considering an offer to join the breakaway circuit.

As it stands, it appears to be between Stenson, Luke Donald, Robert Karlsson and Paul Lawrie. With McDowell out of the running, he added: “It’s just a case of which one of these guys want it.”

Andrew Wright
Freelance News Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he decided to go freelance and now covers a variety of topics for Golf Monthly. 

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Mizuno mp32 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x