McDowell’s Lucky CharmYou could make a strong case that the biggest beneficiary from the Tiger Woods scandal (Besides his divorce lawyers. And the tabloids.) was Graeme McDowell. The Orlando Sentinel’s Jeff Shain writes that the fallout from Tiger’s Nov. 27, 2009, car accident allowed the Irishman to sub into Woods’s tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, the following week. McDowell went on to finish second, and the dominoes continued to fall.
Sex scandal or not, there were questions about whether Woods would be physically able to play in the 18-man event he hosts. McDowell’s agent, Conor Ridge, knew his client was on a short list of possible alternates.
Ridge suggested McDowell linger in LA. McDowell was at a mall with clotheshorse Ian Poulter when the phone call came.
“That was a pretty cool deal, just to be involved that week,” McDowell said. “And next thing, I finished second and got myself in the 38th spot in the world.”
It doesn’t sound like much, but it was crucial.
By getting into the top 50 by year’s end, McDowell claimed berths in the Masters and two early-season World Golf Championships events. Another runner-up finish came at the WGC stop at Doral, which provided another windfall of rankings points.
That proved to be crucial around Memorial Day, when the cutoff loomed for the top 50 to get into the U.S. Open. He sat squarely on the bubble at the European Tour’s BMW Championship, but a tie for 28th was enough to move him up to No. 49.
He was in the Pebble Beach field. And though he still could have gotten in by surviving a 36-hole qualifier, he didn’t have to sweat things out. Two weeks later, McDowell took care of the rest.
Tiger’s fall opened the door for a new wave of young winners on Tour in 2010, including Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Justin Rose. But McDowell’s rise was probably the most surprising, and it’s crazy to think it wouldn’t have happened without Tiger’s scandal. Today McDowell is a major champion, a Ryder Cup hero and the 13th-ranked player in the world, while Tiger will lose his grip on No. 1 in the next two weeks. Mahan Bounces BackDon’t cry for Hunter Mahan. The 28-year-old suffered a crushing loss to Graeme McDowell in the Ryder Cup’s final and deciding match, and couldn’t hold back tears in his post-round press conference. But Mahan is back in action this week in Vegas, and at his presser he declared himself fully recovered from the disappointment at Celtic Manor.
“It was over, you know, at the end of the match with a handshake. I mean it was kind of done … I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a situation like that again. You know, I was excited to have that opportunity to have a chance to win the Cup like that. It was a great experience.
I think people appreciate the showing of the emotions and showing that they care. You know, only thing we were going to win was a Cup. We weren’t going to win any money. I mean we were trying to play for our country and we were trying to play for each other and we were trying to play for Corey. And that’s it. And there’s no better honor than that.
I think it’s great and I’ve got a lot of texts and Emails from people that I’ve never met, and I really appreciate the fact that how much we care about the Ryder Cup and how much it actually means to us. Sometimes they haven’t seen that before.”
Mahan also said that he never considered taking the rest of the year off after the Ryder Cup.
“No. I never — I mean I think the best thing about it is I was kind of just one week. It’s four days of golf and then it’s kind of over after that, you know.
I think you saw it, just the emotion of the week. I mean it’s a long week. You know, you put everything you have into that week and then it’s kind of over and you have nothing left. And then I’m here in Vegas trying to win this event. So I think it’s pretty easy to put behind you because I took a lot of good things from it. I don’t take anything bad from it.”
Good for Mahan, and U.S. golf, that he’s in high spirits after such an emotional defeat. He’ll be an interesting player to watch this week at Timberlake’s tournament. Still feel bad for Hunter? Remember he has a few things going for himself off the course, as well. Stray Shots: Things I read while wondering how I can get invited to Anthony Kim’s next Vegas buddy trip. * A Massachusetts high school conference banned golfers from wearing iPods during tournaments, and one player was DQ’d from an event, costing his team a chance to compete for a state title. I wonder what this guy would say about that.
* John Daly is in the field this week in Vegas, and on Wednesday he wore this. * A headline writer did everything he could to make Ernie Els’s win at the Grand Slam of Golf sound significant. I remain unmoved.