McDowell's stroke of genius seals World glory
GRAEME McDOWELL produced a stroke of pure genius under pressure at the 17th hole in Sherwood Country Club to clinch his first tournament victory since famously eclipsing tournament host Tiger Woods at his own World Challenge here in 2010.
Leading Keegan Bradley by two after sinking a gutsy seven-foot clutch putt to match the American Ryder Cup star's birdie four at 16, McDowell (33) then over-hit his tee shot at 17 into a nightmare lie in tangled rough just over the back of the green.
The Portrush man chose this moment to show his staggering touch and confidence had not been eroded by a difficult season on and around Tour greens in 2012. He hit an exquisite chip which dusted down in the semi-rough and then rolled out to the hole, stopping right on the lip.
With one hand on the trophy, McDowell made birdie at the last to wrap up a final-round 68. For the 10th time in 12 rounds at Sherwood, the Ulsterman had broken 70, earning US$1.2m as he finished on 17-under. Bradley shot 69 to finish three behind.
Two ahead entering the final round, McDowell made a fabulous par save after a wayward drive at the first and was firmly in control thereafter. He led Bradley by four with six to play before making his first bogey in 41 holes at the par-five 13th, courtesy of his first three-putt of the week.
Bradley's birdie there might have rattled a lesser man but not McDowell, who broke his two year-long drought at the perfect time – the Ulsterman now takes an extended 10-week winter break with fiancée Kristen Stape.
Bradley had a difficult week in the wake of last Tuesday's decision by golf's ruling bodies to ban 'anchoring'. It took an ugly twist on Saturday afternoon when he was abused by a spectator in the gallery at 18.
"I had some guy here call me a cheater on the last hole," said Bradley (26) who at last year's US PGA in Atlanta became the first golfer using a long putter to win a Major.
The American still 'anchors' that belly putter in his midriff, a practice which will be outlawed on January 1, 2016.
In a statement, the USGA described Saturday's incident as "deplorable" adding "there's no place in our game for this kind of behaviour. As we noted when announcing proposed Rule 14-1b, it has been and remains entirely within the Rules of Golf for players to anchor the club while making a stroke.
"There should not be a shred of criticism of such players or any qualification or doubt about their achievements. We're sorry Keegan had to experience this unfounded criticism from an obviously uneducated spectator."
Woods finished outside the top two for only the third time in 12 appearances at Sherwood, a final-round 71 leaving him tied fourth on nine-under with Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.
• THREE months after sinking "the biggest putt of my life" at Medinah to retain the Ryder Cup for Europe, Martin Kaymer broke his own 13-month win drought at the Nedbank Challenge.
Kaymer completed a notable German double at Sun City after Bernhard Langer finished two ahead of Jay Haas in the Nedbank Champions.
Yesterday's fourth-round 69 elevated Kaymer to eight-under-par, two clear of Charl Schwartzel. The US$1.25m cheque he earned at this annual 12-man 'jolly' was bigger than his prize for winning the 2010 US PGA.