Life-changing year for McDowell
It did wonders for Graeme McDowell, too, in a way few could have imagined.
McDowell was on his way home from China a year ago when he was a last-minute alternate in the Chevron World Challenge for Woods, whose troubles were just starting. Little did McDowell know that his runner-up finish was the start of a life-changing year.
It was the first year the Chevron World Challenge awarded world ranking points. McDowell earned enough to narrowly be exempt for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which he won by one shot for his first major.
That U.S. Open victory put him on the Ryder Cup team, and McDowell delivered the biggest putt of his life on the 16th hole of Celtic Manor in October to win the decisive match for Europe.
“If I don’t finish second at the Chevron here last year, perhaps I miss the U.S. Open, and perhaps I’m not sitting here right now after having a dream season,” McDowell said Wednesday. “It’s kind of weird how small things can shape a year. And I feel very fortunate to be here last year.”
He will get back to Northern Ireland for the holidays later this month, and maybe then he will finally have a chance to reflect on a year that will be hard to top – a major champion and Ryder Cup hero.
For now, he has a few tournaments left in his dream season, starting with the one that got him started.
McDowell is part of an 18-man field that tees off Thursday at Sherwood Country Club, a tournament that used to be a Christmas bonus for the elite few that were invited to Woods’ event.
It is much stronger now, with a $5 million purse and world ranking points giving it credibility. The field is stronger than the Dubai World Championship last week that ended the European Tour season.
There are enough points that Woods has a chance to regain his No. 1 ranking from Lee Westwood, who is playing in South Africa against a tough field. He would have to win the Chevron World Challenge and have Westwood finish out of the top two to regain the No. 1 ranking.
The odds of that happening are not great based on recent history. Woods has only three top-10s this year, including a fourth-place finish in the Australian Masters last month.
He was hitting the ball better than he has all year Wednesday in the pro-am, enough to get the attention of his caddie, Steve Williams, who noticed big strides since they last played Down Under.
Woods also has stuck with the Nike putter he used in Australia, with the shaft in the heel to help him release the blade through the ball. He made it sound as though he was ditching the putter that brought him 13 majors.
“It’s permanent for this week,” he said.
Woods has not lost at his tournament since 2005, although he didn’t play the last two years. Jim Furyk won at Sherwood last year, and he likely will replace Woods as the PGA Tour Player of the Year when the voting outcome is announced this weekend.
The field also includes Dustin Johnson, who won twice and played in the final group at two majors; and multiple PGA Tour winners Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan.
For all of them, it’s gravy. There’s no cut, and last place pays $140,000.
Everything feels that way for McDowell at the moment.
“At some point this month I’ll sit down and reflect on what’s been a life-changing season,” McDowell said. “I really haven’t had a lot of chances, especially since the Ryder Cup, to think about what I’ve achieve this year.”
After winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he said it took more than a month to get his head around what he had done. And then came the Ryder Cup, and that 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, running into the arms of his teammates, the European celebration.
“It’s been a whirlwind ride, and it’s been certainly something I’ll be trying to reflect on and enjoy, and obviously to look to build on it moving into next year,” McDowell said.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.