Graeme McDowell thanked his good fortune at Tiger Woods’ expense as he booked his ticket to the 2010 Masters last night.
Northern Ireland’s McDowell made the most of a late invitation to play in the Chevron World Challenge in California when tournament host Woods withdrew from the 18-man field following the car crash that sparked a turbulent and uncomfortable week for the world number one in the news media around the world.
While Woods nursed his injuries and began trying to repair his marriage following allegations of extra-marital affairs and a personal apology for “transgressions”, McDowell took his place at Sherwood Country Club and finished runner-up in the event, one stroke behind winner Jim Furyk.
Not only that, McDowell’s high finish took him from 55th in the world rankings to 38th and earned him a spot next April in the opening major of the year at Augusta National.
“It’s been a fun week,” McDowell said. “This is a great golf tournament, there are great players here, it’s a wonderful golf course. I really enjoyed the week.
“It was such a bonus to get in here, and obviously the circumstances, we all know why.
“It was a bit of a blow for the event but I feel very fortunate to be here and to play as well as I have been playing.”
The second-place finish capped a great finish to McDowell’s season, the Northern Irishman said.
“This year has been a funny year for me. I just feel like I started to play well the last few months, and I was running out of tournaments really, and it was nice to add another great tournament like this on the schedule and to play as well as I did, very satisfying.
“And the boost up the world rankings is just huge for me really.
“It’s been a frustrating year. I’ve got nothing out of all the work I’ve put in, and in a funny way this kind of puts a bit of a shine on it and gives me a little something back for all my hard work this year.”
McDowell finished one stroke ahead of Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and England’s Lee Westwood, whose year was already complete after winning the inaugural Dubai World Championship to become the first Race To Dubai champion - nine years after winning it’s forerunner, the Order of Merit.
Westwood said after his tie for third place: “It’s been a good year, there’s no doubt about that,”
“I’ve played really solid most of the year, I gave myself a lot of chances to win.
“I won a couple. I won a big one when it mattered, and I look forward to next year.”
First, though, the new European number one said he would take a well-earned break.
“I look forward to having a rest but then looking forward to next year after that.
“I’ll just put the clubs away really, not play golf, get in the gym, do some work on fitness, and come out next year mentally and physically fresh.”