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Cadillac Championship: Graeme McDowell capable of rearranging old world order

By Karl MacGinty

It's an American dream ... Tiger and Phil going mano-a-mano for two days.

Only times have changed and there's a new order in golf, making World No 4 Graeme McDowell the best-ranked player in the three-ball with Woods and Mickelson at the Cadillac World Golf Championship.

The Portrush man is just a couple of hot performances away from vaulting over his Ryder Cup comrades Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and No 1 Martin Kaymer to the summit of his sport.

Factor in the necessity for players in this week's elite 69-man field to keep their tee shots on the fairway at Doral's Blue Monster and there's every reason to believe Europe's US Open Champion can up-stage his celebrated playing companions today and tomorrow and even march on to victory.

Before his life came crashing down around his ears 16 months ago, Tiger would have been considered almost invincible at Doral, where he's never finished outside the top 10 in seven visits and saw off Mickelson in a thrilling final-day duel to claim victory at the 2005 Ford Championship.

Yet Woods yesterday suggested he's not yet capable of stringing together four straight days of pure ball-striking as he undergoes an all-embracing game change with new coach Sean Foley. He has even modified his putting action to fit Foley's philosophy.

And if Mickelson, champion here in 2009, has been relatively happy with his golf in the run-up to next month's title defence at the US Masters, only World No 1 Martin Kaymer and recently-crowned Accenture Match Play Champion Luke Donald can match McDowell for form and confidence.

The Ulsterman currently rates Donald as the best form player on the planet, with Kaymer next. Yet McDowell could go all the way to No 1 himself with a win this week and a prominent finish at Bay Hill.

“I'm in a position where if I keep playing the way I have been, the rankings will take care of themselves,” he said.

“Of course, I'd love to be the best player in the world. Whether for one week or a hundred, I'd just love to get there but my focus is on getting ready for each week and just having fun out there.”

He snorted at the suggestion that he should be considered the “senior man” in his three ball today, saying: “Yeah, sure. There's 19 Major wins between the three of us and, unfortunately, I can contribute only one of those.

“It's going to be great for the next two days,” he went on. “It's a fantastic draw. Sometimes it can be difficult to have the same level of intensity on Thursday at a tournament that you'd have on a Sunday — it's hard to be 150 per cent up for every day.

“But I think playing with Tiger and Phil will do that for me this week,” added McDowell who last Sunday posted a course record-equalling round at the climax to a tournament for the second time this year.

The final round 62 he posted on his way into third at the season-opening Hyundai was a remarkable effort for a man competing with new clubs for the first time.

Meanwhile, his stunning 64 at Honda last Sunday, as McDowell motored to his fourth top-10 finish in a row since beating Tiger at Chevron last December, proved taking the month of February off barely caused a blip in his form.

“Taking time off and coming back sharp is something I haven't been able to do in the past,” he nodded: “But I'm starting to get the hang of taking time off and coming back sharp.”

Sharp is the operative word ... America waits with bated breath for the showdown between Woods and Mickelson but McDowell can burst that bubble.

Belfast Telegraph

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