McDowell, McIlroy paired for Tiger's event
Tiger Woods speaks at a news conference for the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament in Thousand Oaks, California where Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy will compete (Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Golf:US Open champion Graeme McDowell and Ulster sidekick Rory McIlroy will tee it up together in this week’s €3.8million Chevron World Challenge in California where a select, yet star-studded field, has gathered to compete in the season-ending event hosted by Tiger Woods.
It could be argued Woods’ event 12 months ago was the catalyst for McDowell’s career-defining season of 2010. The Portrush pro earned a late call up to last year’s invitational event at Sherwood Country Club and duly went on to finish runner-up behind eventual winner Jim Furyk.
The result meant the 31-year-old climbed back inside the world’s top 50 before year’s end and therefore automatically opened doors to so many of the big events such as the Majors and World Golf Championships.
What McDowell went on to achieve this year has been phenomenal – US Open champion, Wales Open and Andalucian Masters wins, Ryder Cup hero at Celtic Manor, second on the European money list plus a first taste of life inside the world’s top 10 – and had he not climbed into the top 50 after the 2009 Chevron, the script may have been so much different.
As it is, McDowell is one the game’s leading players and has proved his steely nerve time and time again in the heat of battle in 2010. This week at Thousand Oaks will seem like a walk in the park by comparison as the game’s leading lights begin to ease down ahead of the extended Christmas/winter break. That McDowell will get to spend time competing alongside his mate McIlroy is an added bonus.
The pair form part of an 18-player field and will set off from 6:50pm (Irish time) when the first round gets under way tomorrow.
Woods, who will be competing in his own event for the first time in three years and will play alongside Steve Stricker, expressed delight over the quality of the players assembled at Sherwood this week.
"Our field is the deepest, the strongest it's ever been," said the American world number two. "We're really looking forward to getting out there and hopefully putting on a good show."
A four-time champion, Woods missed the 2008 World Challenge while recovering from knee surgery and last year's edition after being engulfed by a torrid sex scandal.
Although yet to win this season while coping with the break-up of his marriage and the fourth swing change of his career, he retains his appetite for victory.
"My goal is to win every tournament I tee it up in and be prepared for every event," he added. "But that does entail right now learning a new golf swing that requires a lot of work, some new motor patterns. It's not exactly easy, but it's a fun challenge."
This week, 10 of the world's top-15 players will be vying for supremacy over the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout at Sherwood. Proceeds from the invitational event go to Tiger Woods Foundation projects and the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim.
Quite a number of time zones away and Pádraig Harrington, the other member of the leading Irish golf triumvirate, will tee it up in the select 12-player Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa.
The three-time major winner will compete alongside a number of Ryder Cup team mates including; Miguel Angel Jimenez, Edoardo Molinari and Ross Fisher and world number one Lee Westwood at the Gary Player Country Club layout.
The tournament celebrates its 30th anniversary and it's a venue Westwood enjoys returning to. “I’d love to win here, It’s somewhere I’ve always enjoyed coming to," said Westwood. “It’s a great tournament, it’s always has a good feel, I enjoy the golf course and have since ‘98 when it was my first year. I enjoyed it then and enjoy it now.”
British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen returns to home soil and is joined in the field by other home favourites, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, who will play together and set off at 9.22am Irish time tomorrow. Harrington will play alongside Anders Hansen at 9.46am.
Thursday tee-times, all times Irish
Chevron World Challenge
Sherwood Country Club
(First round tee-times, Irish in bold)
6:20pmLuke Donald, Anthony Kim
6:30pmBubba Watson, Dustin Johnson
6:40pmPaul Casey, Ian Poulter
6:50pm Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell
7:00pmHunter Mahan, Sean O'Hair
7:10pmTiger Woods, Steve Stricker
7:20pmJim Furyk, Camilo Villegas
7:30pmMatt Kuchar, Nick Watney
7:40pmStewart Cink, Zach Johnson
08.10amMark McNulty, Jay Haas
08.22amFulton Allem, Tommy Armour III
08.34amDavid Frost, Fred Funk
08.46amNick Price, Jeff Sluman
09.10amRoss Fisher, Edoardo Molinari
09.22amRetief Goosen, Ernie Els
09.34amJustin Rose, Lee Westwood
09.46am Pádraig Harrington, Anders Hansen
09.58amTim Clark, Louis Oosthuizen
10.10amMiguel A Jimenez, Robert Allenby