McDowell holds out in final round to secure win
GOLF:Graeme McDowell’s love affair with California continued yesterday when the Ulsterman – who won a breakthrough Major in the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach – closed out his season with a second victory in three years in the World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club where he stubbornly fended off a final-round challenge from US Ryder Cup player Keegan Bradley.
In finishing his year’s work with a $1.2 million payday before a 10-week winter break during which he intends to work on his short game and putting, McDowell – who shot a finishing round 68 for 271, 17-under-par – claimed a three-stroke winning margin over Bradley.
McDowell has proven a strong front-runner. Five of his tournament wins on the European Tour – the Scandinavian Masters (2002), Italian Open (2004), the Ballantines (2008), the Scottish Open (2008) and the Andalucian Masters (2010) – all came after he carried the 54-hole lead into the final round.
On this occasion, McDowell claimed back-to-back-birdies on the 10th (from six feet) and 11th (from 25 feet) to take an iron grip in his pursuit of the title in the elite 12-man field in the Tiger Woods-promoted tournament.
McDowell moved four shots clear of nearest pursuer Bradley – who was heckled by spectators during Saturday’s third round with one accusing him of being “a cheater” because of his use of the long-putter, the subject of a rule change that doesn’t come into force until 2016 – with that birdie on the 11th.
However, McDowell’s bogey on the Par 5 13th, where he three-putted to suffer his first bogey in 41 holes, to Bradley’s birdie made for an interesting run-up for the title. McDowell calmly rolled in a 12 footer for birdie on the 16th – matching Bradley’s tap-in birdie – to retain his two-stroke lead and a good up-and-down from greenside rough on the 17th left him with the two-stroke cushion playing the last.
On a hole which played as the toughest of the tournament, McDowell found the fairway and hit a seven-iron approach from 175 yards to six feet to seal the deal and scoop the top prize. McDowell rolled in the final birdie putt, to take a three-shot winning margin.
“It’s certainly my kind of course, there’s no doubt about is it,” said McDowell. “I think its a premium on accuracy and a premium on good, aggressive iron play . . . I’ve always kind of rolled the ball here (on the greens) as well.”