Monday, December 6

‘The Three Tenors’ of Graeme McDowell

THOSE THREE PUTTS THAT Graeme McDowell dropped at 17, 18 and 18 to beat Tiger Woods yesterday at the Chevron World Challenge were virtuosity, sort of like (sorry in advance) The Three Tenors.

By some odd coincidence, I tuned in to the final round of the Chevron World Challenge as Woods and McDowell reached the 14th hole. I wasn’t planning on watching golf, but my daughters had relinquished the TV in the living room and I took control of the remote.

Tiger had coughed up his four-shot lead and the pesky Irishman was not backing off an inch. This was kind of interesting, even if it was a silly season event. The more I watched, the more I realized there was nothing silly about the late-afternoon drama at Sherwood Country Club. Progress is progress, but, let’s face it, Tiger needed this win. He had a four-stroke lead heading into the final round. Four strokes. He’s Tiger Woods. It’s part of the brand. No choking on Sunday. I don’t care if it’s an 18-player event in December, it’s on NBC. People are watching. He needed to get it done. Instead, Tiger looked like he had been through the pressure cooker—and was cooked.

McDowell yanked his 8-iron on the par-3 17th and had such awful options that he deliberated forever. I grew impatient. C’mon, Graeme, make up your mind. I couldn’t believe he was considering dropping his ball on the 18th tee for a blind 40-yard pitch. Then he knocked the darn thing on 10 feet away. Tiger missed his birdie, and McDowell grinded over his bogey putt and sank it. I’ll call that one the “Jose Carreras.”

Tied, Tiger stuffed his approach shot on the 18th while McDowell pulled his iron and rolled to a stop 20 feet away. It’s over. Everybody knows it. We’ve seen this before. Stevie removed his caddie bib. But McDowell stalked the putt like his life depended on it. Then the ol’ boy rolled it in the heart, a “Placido Domingo.”

Hello! What’s this? Wow!

Tiger nudged in his three-footer and they headed back to the 18th tee. Up to this point, I could accept what happened. McDowell is tough. The man can make an important putt. As impressive as it was, it’s not inconceivable that he could hole a clutch putt on the final green, even against Tiger Woods.

But McDowell’s third putt, the “Luciano Pavarotti,” about put me over the edge. Three holes, three putts of 10, 20 and 25 feet to beat Tiger in a playoff. I admit it wasn’t the U.S. Open, nor was it the Ryder Cup, but those were still three of the best putts I’ve seen anyone drop in a long, long while. The look on Tiger’s face said it all.

−The Armchair Golfer

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