Graeme McDowell targets Tiger Woods
Graeme McDowell can get used to supping at golf’s top table.
The US Open champion tees off at tomorrow’s HSBC Champions in Shanghai alongside fellow major winners Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.
Woods may have been dethroned by Lee Westwood as the world’s top golfer, but he’s still the biggest attraction in the game by a distance.
The new world number two has crossed paths with the Ulsterman in the past — they played against one another a couple of years ago in the Tavistock Cup in a match that ended all square with Woods representing Isleworth and McDowell the neighbouring Lake Nona.
After his win in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama on Sunday which catapulted him up to 10th in the world rankings, McDowell is just about the hottest property in golf at the moment, hence his pairing with Woods at the year’s final World Golf Championship event.
The Shanghai tournament was upgraded to become one of the four World Golf Championship events last year with a limited but top-class field.
Rory McIlroy caused controversy at Celtic Manor when he suggested that winning a WGC event was higher on his list of priorities that the Ryder Cup.
Although adding to the major title he won at Pebble Beach in June is now McDowell’s priority in the game, he would dearly love to add a World Golf Championship victory to his CV.
Woods has an astonishing 16 to his credit — only Geoff Ogilvy, Phil Mickelson and Darren Clarke have managed to win more than one.
Victory in China this week would go a long way to propelling McDowell towards winning the Race to Dubai title and even before his victory in Spain last week, he had already targeted closing the gap to leader Martin Kaymer, even though he trailed the German in second place by around a million euros.
Sunday’s win just about halved that deficit as Kaymer trailed in 21st position at Valderrama and what seemed a cut and dried procession to the Harry Vardon Trophy is anything but now with four events to go including the season ending Dubai World Championship at the end of the month.
McIlroy, who plays with South African Retief Goosen and China’s Wen-chong Liang in the first two rounds, is back in action on the European Tour for the first time in three weeks since his Challenge Tour excursion to Egypt.
He came in a disappointing 12th place — earning €3,308 — but was struggling with swing changes.
Closing rounds of 69 and 68 hinted that his game is not all that far away from being back to his best and he has been working with coach Michael Bannon at home in the meantime.