Tiger tamer cracking the whip

GRAEME McDOWELL moved to seventh in the world rankings and enhanced his chances of claiming the BBC’s Sportsman of the Year award with victory in the Chevron World Challenge in California on Sunday night.

His fourth title of the year, was worth $1.2m (€901,000) to the Portrush star who looked shocked by the manner in which he deprived Tiger Woods of his last chance of a tournament win in 2010.

Woods was gracious afterwards saying he was: “proud of the way I played even though I didn’t win, it was a great week.”

However, I believe Woods should be cautioned by the PGA Tour every time he spits in full view of the television cameras.

For McDowell, though, it was an amazing day, highlighted by 20 foot birdie putts on the 18th green, the first which enabled him to force a play-off and the second which saw him become the second Irishman after Pádraig Harrington (in 2002) to overcome Woods in his own tournament.

McDowell said: “This is the stuff of dreams. To take on the greatest player the game has ever seen in his own backyard and beat him is unbelievable. This is definitely another highlight of 2010. They’re the kind of putts you make and you can’t believe it afterwards. It’s been that kind of year.

“I’m proud of the way I’ve applied myself over the last six weeks. It would have been easy to kick back with the great things I’ve achieved but to finish as strongly as I have to win twice in that time makes me very proud.”

When it comes to closing out tournaments, he possesses not alone the necessary levels of fitness but also the nerve and game.

He proved that in spades with his great win in the US Open at Pebble Beach in June and by proving the ideal anchorman for Europe in the Ryder Cup.

Throw in the manner in which he captured the Wales Open, the Andalucia Masters and now the Chevron World Challenge and you understand why he wonders if there can ever be another year like this. He is a man on the march and nothing seems beyond him.

His 15th club is his course management, best exemplified by the way he took his medicine at the short 17th on Sunday and somehow eked out a bogey when double or worse looked on the cards.

Credit also must go to caddie Ken Comboy. The pair have established a terrific rapport and friendship and the relationship is another factor in McDowell’s success.

It remains to be seen whether four tournament wins and his massive contribution to the Ryder Cup triumph will be sufficient to earn McDowell the BBC Sportsman of the Year award.

The favourite is another Northern Ireland man, the jockey A.P. McCoy, and while his Grand National triumph on JP McManus’s Don’t Push It was the stuff of dreams, it will surely be a close run thing between them when the decision is announced in Birmingham on Sunday, December 19.

Having played six successive tournaments, two of which he has won, it might have been expected that the last thing G-Mac would want to see for a few weeks was a golf club. Not a bit of it. He now moves on to Tilburn Golf Club at the Ritz Carlton Resort in Naples, Florida, for the Shark Shoot-Out, a three day event starting on Friday and in which he will partner Darren Clarke.

The 24 strong field features holders, Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker, as well as Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson, has a first prize total of $750,000 (€563,000) with $470,000 (€353, 500) for the second pair.

Believe it or not but the 2011 European Tour gets under way this week with the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the Leopard Creek course in South Africa, on Thursday. There are five Irishmen — Michael Hoey, Shane Lowry, Gareth Maybin, Damien McGrane and Gary Murphy — in the field that also includes Ernie Els.

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