ORLANDO, Fla. – The last time Graeme McDowell played with Tiger Woods in the final round of a PGA Tour event? The answer is, never.
That changes Sunday, when McDowell, who trails Woods by one stroke entering the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, will be paired in the final group. Of Woods’ 71 PGA Tour victories, six have been here at Bay Hill.
In the 87 events that McDowell has played on the PGA Tour, he has never gone head-to-head with Woods in a final round. Over their career, including worldwide starts, a McDowell-Woods pairing has occurred just nine times, but only three on a weekend: the third round of the 2009 Masters and the third and fourth rounds at the Chevron World Challenge in 2010.
Woods has been winless on the PGA Tour for 2 1/2 years, since the 2009 BMW Championship. For McDowell, it has been nearly as long, making Sunday’s final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational likely the most anticipated and intriguing matchup on the PGA Tour this year.
“There’s no doubt there’s a certain element of a comeback for me tomorrow, as well,” McDowell said after his post-round news conference. “It’s not quite as dramatic a comeback as the man inside, but absolutely tomorrow is a big day for me, but I’m looking at the bigger picture.”
McDowell’s last Tour victory came in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and his last victory on the European Tour was months later, at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.
Since that victory on the Costa del Sol, the Ulsterman has played in a combination of 34 events on the European and PGA tours without a title.
Now he faces Woods, against whom McDowell has had success, notably the 2010 Chevron World Challenge. McDowell and Woods were paired together on the weekend, but it took a playoff hole for McDowell to secure victory.
“I think the more times you play with Tiger, the more you kind of acclimatize to being in the group with him,” McDowell said. “You know, it’s not really the intimidation factor of him. It’s more the kind of circus that goes with him – the media, the cameras, just everything; you multiply it by 10, 15, 20 from playing with anyone else.”
The circus starts in the post-round news conference the night before. McDowell was asked six questions from the media, and all were about Woods in some way shape or form. It didn’t seem to faze McDowell, who knows what to expect in the final round and seems in his own way to relish the task at hand.
“He’s just another guy that I’ve got to go and try and beat tomorrow,” McDowell said. “He’s not going to be able to tackle me, thank goodness. All I’ve got to do is just play my golf ball.”