5 Things: McDowell breaks 2-year winless streak
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Photos: 2012 Tiger Woods World Challenge
A look at the 2012 Tiger Woods World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Graeme McDowell seemed to be right at home with the less-than-ideal weather at Sherwood Country Club this week, firing a 4-under 68 to cap off an impressive victory at the Tiger Woods World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif. on Sunday.
The Northern Irishman went 41 holes without a bogey from the middle of his second round to late in the fourth to secure his second World Challenge title in three years.
Here are 5 Things to take away from Sunday in southern California:
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1. SHINING AT SHERWOOD: Graeme McDowell joked that he might look for some real estate in the Sherwood area after the third round.
He hasn't finished worse than second in the event in three tries, winning in 2010 and 2012 and finishing solo second in 2009. He skipped the event in 2011.
He is a collective 45 under in those three tournaments, with his 17-under performance this year his best to date.
"It's been too long. It's been a hell of a two years since I sat here as a winner," McDowell said. "We all put winning up on a pedestal as the ultimate goal. We like to say that it's all about the process and going through the motions and trying to get better. But let's be honest. We all measure ourselves by the win. I can say that now."
McDowell had to sweat it out on Sunday, taking a four-shot advantage after a birdie at the par-5 11th hole, only to see it chopped to two shots with a bogey at the par-5 13th - giving Keegan Bradley a slice of hope.
Bradley narrowly missed an eagle chip at No. 16 and tapped in for a birdie. Meanwhile, McDowell had a 12-footer from behind the hole for the same score. He took a few moments to studied it and put a beautiful stroke on it, simply walking it in to stay two ahead.
A birdie at No. 18 would put the icing on the cake and end a two-year winless drought.
Up next for McDowell will be a 10-week vacation after 12 weeks on the road that saw him visit the Middle East, Asia and California.
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2. AN UNUSUAL SUNDAY: Tiger Woods had fought back in plenty of World Challenge's in years past - including overcoming a four-shot deficit in 2001 to Vijay Singh - but Woods could never get anything going on Sunday, failing to pick up a birdie until the par-5 13th hole en route to a 1-under 71 that featured an eagle at the par-5 16th.
Maybe even more odd was Woods playing with his hat backward for a handful of holes - not something you normally see on Tour. Jason Day also flipped his hat around for a bit on Sunday. The hat seemed to do nothing to get his round going, running off five consecutive pars from Nos. 8 through 12.
Woods went nine consecutive par-5s - from the 13th on Friday to the 13th on Sunday - without a birdie on Sherwood's longest holes. He was 6 under on the holes over his first nine shots at them. He finished 9 under on them for the week.
The final-round 71 was his worst since 2010, when he shot a 1-over 73 and lost in a playoff to McDowell.
"I struggled with my game a little bit this week," said Woods. "I just managed myself well to get around in these conditions."
One part of his game that did seem to be much better than it was this time last year - his short game. Despite a bogey at the 18th, his 50-yard pitch shot from the drop zone nearly went in the hole to save par.
"My short game has been really good from late summer on," said Woods. "I was hitting the ball a little better so I was spending more time chipping and putting.
"But now I gotta hit the ball better than I have. I've got six weeks off so it will be nice to throw the clubs in the closet for a few weeks and then get back after it."
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3. IN HIS DEFENSE: Keegan Bradley made headlines before the round even started on Sunday, with the USGA releasing a statement about a fan calling Bradley a "cheater" off the back of the 18th green on Saturday.
The USGA referred to the fan's comments as a "deplorable incident," coming to the aid of Bradley despite the fact that they are looking to ban Bradley's anchored putting stroke on Jan. 1, 2016.
Bradley was one of two players to break 70 in each of his rounds at Sherwood, picking up three 69s (including Sunday) and a 67 en route to a second-place finish that saw him get as close as two strokes heading to the 17th hole. Bradley had two bogeys on Sunday - at Nos. 8 and 9 - that cost him a better chance of pushing McDowell out of the lead. He had only two bogeys over the first 54 holes.
"Graeme really likes this place," Bradley said. "Just when I thought maybe I'd have a good chance, he'd hole a putt or hit a chip like he did on 17. He's a champion. I don't expect anything less out of him."
The second-place finish was his second of the 2012 season and sixth top-10. He made the cut in 22 of 26 events, including all four majors.
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4. HE'S THE BVP: Bo Van Pelt played with Tiger Woods twice (the second and final rounds) and outplayed the five-time World Challenge champ in each round, beating him by a stroke each day.
Van Pelt finished solo third at 10 under.
Van Pelt was one of the most consistent players on Tour in 2012, picking up 11 top-10s, including a second-place finish at AT&T National, where Woods won the title. He also had 17 top-25s in only 25 starts.
According to TV reports, captain Fred Couples reached out to Van Pelt earlier this week to get the conversation going about a possible spot on the Presidents Cup team in 2013. His play in 2012 definitely justified that call.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: What a difference a year makes for Zach Johnson. A year after giving Tiger Woods all he could handle on Sunday at Sherwood, Johnson fired a 7-over 79 to finish the 2012 tournament dead-last at 5 over - five shots worse than Ian Poulter . . . The field was a collective 27 under, with only two players shooting over par (Johnson and first-round leader Nick Watney) . . . Rickie Fowler might have been the hottest player in the tournament if it wasn't for a 4 over start to the first three holes on Thursday, finishing the tournament at 9 under, including an eagle-2 at the par-4 1st hole on Sunday.