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McDowellMahan a compelling pairing

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Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan are the pairing of the week in golf in today’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

It’s not that this is some sort of grudge match based off their wildly emotional match at last fall’s Ryder Cup. It won’t be.

Yes, their intertwined history makes the “reunion” compelling in the powerful sentiments the Ryder Cup memory conjurs, but there’s as much interest in where these two are headed as there is where they’ve been. They go off at 5:10 p.m. (ET), just before the start of Golf Channel's telecast.

McDowell’s defeat of Tiger Woods at the Chevron World Challenge last month makes you think this guy’s just getting started. At No. 5 in the world rankings, his confidence is high. But how will he deal with new expectations in a new year? How will the equipment change to Srixon affect him?

Mahan is No. 19 in the world and after two victories a year ago, you wonder if he’s a guy who’s also just getting started. You could see him being a larger factor in major championships and breaking through to win one. But that Ryder Cup disappointment, it sticks in your head, and you wonder if it sticks in his head. This is the kind of good-natured guy a lot of folks will be rooting for to follow McDowell as this year’s big breakthrough on the game’s biggest stages. Mahan may have more fans now than he did going to the Ryder Cup.