World Golf Championship: High-ranking Graeme McDowell to play with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson
Graeme McDowell’s lofty world ranking yielded a rich dividend last night as the Portrush man was teamed up with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for the first 36 holes of the Cadillac Championship at Doral, Florida.
The International Federation of PGA Tours, organisers of this week’s $8.5m World Golf Championship event, have grouped the 21 top-ranked players in the 69-man field on the basis of their position on the global ladder.
So World No 4 McDowell will tee it up at The Blue Monster in the same three-ball as No 5 Woods and No 6 Mickelson tomorrow (4.51pm GMT) and on Friday (5.54pm).
The US Open champion has fond memories of his last outing with Tiger — at the Chevron World Challenge in December, when he went on to beat Woods in a play-off for his own tournament title at Sherwood Country Club in his native California.
McDowell and Masters champ Phil Mickelson were last drawn together for the first two rounds of the 2010 US PGA at Whistling Straits.
Naturally, Europe’s world top-three, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, will play together, while No 8 Rory McIlroy goes out with No 7 Paul Casey and No 9 Steve Stricker tomorrow (5.02pm) and Friday (6.05pm).
Padraig Harrington, now 38th on the world ladder, is drawn with Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas, teeing off at 5.12pm tomorrow and 6.15pm on Friday.
Meanwhile Woods and Mickelson have now played 39 events between them without a single win, but McIlroy still expects both to be right in the thick of the action at The Masters next month.
“I think the same guys always play well there,” said McIlroy.
“Phil seems to find a way to play Augusta — he's done great there the last few years.”
Mickelson beat Westwood for his third win in seven years last April and has only once finished outside the top 10 in that spell.
“I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of the guys that have only played there a couple of times — it takes a while to learn the golf course and it takes a while to feel 100 per cent comfortable on it.
“Of course the Masters is always going to be a tournament that everyone in the field feels that they can win, but I think you'll still see the usual suspects up there on Sunday.”
McIlroy last week described Woods, a four-time winner at Augusta, as having become an “ordinary golfer” on an American website, but now feels he did not quite get his point across in the way he intended. “I was watching an interview with Sean Foley (Woods' coach) and sort of thought ‘that's what I was trying to say, but it didn't really come out that way'.
“He said Tiger has spoiled us for 10 or 15 years with the golf that he's played and he doesn't know if we're ever going to see that again.
“No one knows and that's basically what I'm trying to say. Tiger was so good back then — people forget how good he was — and we expect him to perform like that all the time. It's probably just not humanly possible.”
The 21-year-old from Holywood, who after the promise of a 20th place finish on his debut at Augusta two years ago missed the cut last time, is not as worried about his own form as closing rounds of 77 and 75 in the Honda Classic at the weekend might suggest.
“I actually feel as if my game is in pretty good shape,” he said.
“The last couple of weeks haven't been exactly what I've wanted (he was a second round loser at the World Match Play a fortnight ago) but I feel like 75-80 per cent of my game is really good.
“It's just the other 20 I need to work on. I'm feeling pretty positive — I think I'm still working on the right things and just trying to make sure that my game is in the best possible shape for the April 7 when The Masters starts.
“I've been driving the ball great all year — I've got longer and I feel as if I'm hitting enough fairways.
“Sometimes I don't take advantage of that, maybe by playing the wrong shot at the wrong time or being a little bit too aggressive.”
He added: “It's just a matter of making the right decisions on the course.”