Tiger Woods: Can He Catch Graeme McDowell?

Admit it. The only reason you’re going to watch Tiger Woods’ World Challenge on Sunday is to see if he can catch Graeme McDowell.

McDowell, warm Irish humor behind his every word, is thoroughly enjoying himself. He’s only made two bogeys for the week and none on Saturday.

It was this tournament that teed up his spectacular year in 2010 when he won the U.S. Open, made the European Ryder Cup team and then beat Tiger in a playoff with a mirror image long putt of the one he made in regulation to get into the playoff. It was his second place finish in 2009 that gave him enough world ranking points to get into that Open. 

And now here he sits like the cat that ate the canary, humbly speaking about a golf course he enjoys, Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, and greens he’s had some success on. And since he’s had great success on said golf course, there is an undercurrent of confidence in there too.

I think it’s certainly my kind of course, there’s no doubt about is it.  I think it’s a premium on accuracy and a premium on good, aggressive iron play, good greens.  I’ve always kind of rolled the ball here well, as well.  Definitely a golf course that sets up well for me.

This doesn’t seem to be a man waiting for the other shoe to drop; he already knows that he can beat Tiger.

But the guy who has first crack at McDowell is the guy he’s going to be playing with on Sunday, Keegan Bradley. Bradley is just two strokes back, is a lot longer than McDowell on a golf course made much longer by rainy conditions and has that “look” in his eye. When Bradley gets into it, he gets into it.

And then three strokes back of Bradley sits a restless Tiger who will be paired with Bo Van Pelt who’s also at 8-under and playing quite well.

The Tour isn’t collecting statistics this week to prove it, but Tiger looks like he’s finally at peace with what he and Sean Foley have been working on these two long years. He doesn’t seem to be jumpy or impatient or anything other than highly confident that he knows where his ball is going. He’s also highly confident that he knows how to win a golf tournament:

Always nice to end the year with a win.  It’s always nice to do that.  I’ve done it a few times here at this event, and hopefully I can do it again tomorrow.

And that, of course, is what we’re all waiting to see. Can Tiger’s newfound shot discipline somehow launch his natural instincts for winning? Since he won three times in 2012 so far, you would have to say yes.

But Sunday is supposed to be another dreary, rainy day where they’ll have to play “lift, clean and place,” to ensure basic playability of the course. But sometimes the weather can hang like a pall over your disposition, making it more difficult lead a charge to the front. Kinda like NASCAR.

But then, isn’t that really going to be watching for on Sunday? To see who wrecks first?

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