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McDowell benefits from Tigers trouble

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Most players say winning a major championship requires a few good breaks. For Graeme McDowell, his big break occurred off the golf course.

McDowell can’t look back on his U.S. Open victory without thinking about Tiger Woods.

He was at No. 55 in the world and seemingly done for the year when Woods was injured in his car accident the night after Thanksgiving and withdrew from his Chevron World Challenge. The tournament awarded ranking points for the first time, so alternates had to come from the top 50 in the world on Sept. 20.

McDowell was No. 46 on that date, and so on his way back from the World Cup in China, he was tapped to replace Woods.

That started what can only be described as a bizarre sequence of events.

McDowell finished alone in second, which was worth 28 points. Five months later, he was No. 50 in the world when he tied for 28th at Wentworth to stay in the top 50 and be exempt for the U.S. Open. Without those ranking points from replacing Woods at Chevron, McDowell might not have been at Pebble Beach.

“The small things that happen in your life can kind of shape into bigger things, you know what I mean?” McDowell said last week on a conference call for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. “Without Chevron, perhaps I’m outside of that window and maybe I’m not even at Pebble Beach. It’s amazing how things happen.”

It’s not the first time Woods has had a ripple effect on a player’s fate.

As a favor to his Kiwi caddie, Woods agreed to play the New Zealand Open in 2002 and tied for sixth. Because the No. 1 player was there, the field strength was elevated to a level that the winner—Craig Parry—became eligible for the World Golf Championship. Seven months later, Parry won the NEC Invitational for his first victory in America.