Graeme McDowell remains golf’s ‘nowhere man’

by golfer on December 19, 2010

At some point in the near future Graeme McDowell’s reputation will go before him. Despite his success at the US Open at Pebble Beach and in the Ryder Cup, despite his career high ranking of world No 7, McDowell has yet to escape the novelty factor that attaches to golfers who come from ‘nowhere’ to win.

Nowhere is a television concept. McDowell’s success in 2010 has been eight years in the making. For those interested in history, he was the Tiger Woods of college golf in his graduation year at Alabama State. He did not torch the fairways like Woods as a rookie pro in 2002. Few do. Neither does he finesse a golf ball with a text book swing and he can look a little portly when those freeze frame cameras retrace his action.
McDowell holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a play-off on Sunday in the Chevron World Challenge, then made another birdie putt from a little longer away to deny Woods a victory in his final tournament of the year.
”It’s the stuff of dreams – 2010 has been the stuff of dreams,” McDowell said.

Woods, despite losing a four-shot lead, was poised to end a turbulent year with a victory in his final event. Tied for the lead playing the 18th hole at Sherwood Country Club, he stuffed an eight-iron inside three feet for a sure birdie. It was vintage Woods, the kind of magic he has he delivered so often in his career. But it wasn’t the same old outcome.

McDowell, with his own reputation as a tough closer, stayed in the game on the 17th by taking a penalty drop on the 18th tee and escaping with bogey. Then after Woods’s great shot, McDowell answered with an all-or-nothing birdie putt.

In the play-off on the same hole, McDowell coaxed in another birdie putt from about 25 feet. Woods had about 15 feet to extend the play-off, but it missed just right of the cup.

”Probably two of the great putts I’ve made,” McDowell said.

It was the first time Woods has ever lost a tournament when leading by at least three shots going into the final round.

”He will be back to winning tournaments very soon,” said McDowell, who closed with a 69, while Woods shot a 73 to match him at 16-under 272. They were four shots clear of Paul Casey, who had had a 69 to finish alone in third.

Meanwhile, world No 1 Lee Westwood has criticised the US PGA Tour for voting American Rickie Fowler as rookie of the year ahead of Britain’s Rory McIlroy.

“Sorry, 140 letters is not going to be enough for this rant,” Westwood said on Twitter.

“Yes, Ricky’s had a good year but Rory McIlroy was third in two majors and [produced] an absolute demolition of the field at Quail Hollow. Oh yes and he was on the winning Ryder Cup team.”

Westwood was referring to the 21-year-old Northern Irishman’s third-place finishes at the Open and USPGA Championship and his four-stroke victory over a top-class field at the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina in May.

“Is this another case of protectionism by the PGA Tour or are they so desperate to win something? Wouldn’t have something to do with Rory not joining the tour next year? Maybe the PGA Tour just employs the same voting process as Fifa?”

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