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Graeme McDowell is enjoying a fortunate detour

Late addition to Woods' tournament shares the lead after three rounds.

December 06, 2009|By Jim Peltz
  • Graeme McDowell watches his drive on the fifth hole at Sherwood Country Club on Saturday during the third round of the Chevron World Challenge.
Graeme McDowell watches his drive on the fifth hole at Sherwood Country… (Harry How / Getty Images )

Tiger Woods' travails might mean an unexpected million-dollar payday for Graeme McDowell.

McDowell, 30, was playing golf in China a week ago when he first learned of being the possible replacement for Woods in Woods' tournament in Thousand Oaks.

"It just so happened I was on my way to Orlando anyway via L.A., so it wasn't out of my way," McDowell said of the Chevron World Challenge, an event limited to 18 players that benefits Woods' charity.

McDowell, indeed, was added to the tournament as Woods' personal problems made global headlines last week, and Saturday the Northern Ireland native made the most of the opportunity.

McDowell shot a six-under-par 66 to share the third-round lead with PGA champion Y.E. Yang heading into today's final round at Sherwood Country Club. Both finished with 54-hole totals of 206, or 10 under par.

Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood were one shot behind at nine under par, followed by Ian Poulter and Jim Furyk at eight under.

McDowell has yet to win on the PGA Tour. But he has four European Tour wins and was high enough in the world golf rankings this year to be eligible as Woods' replacement.

His round Saturday started ordinary enough, with a one-under 34 on the front nine. Then he reeled off birdies on 10, 11 and 12 and, on the par-five 13th, he reached the green in two shots and sank the 15-foot eagle putt.

On the par-three 15th, McDowell rolled in a long putt for yet another birdie to go 12 under, but he gave two shots back with a double bogey on the par-five 16th.

"No complaints," he said. "I've been feeling really good about my game coming into this week," and "I feel very fortunate to be here."

The tournament's total purse is $5.75 million, with $1.35 million going to the winner.

Furyk charged into contention with a five-under 67 that included birdies on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 15th holes.

Yang, who fired a seven-under 65 on Friday despite suffering from flu symptoms, said he felt "a bit better" Saturday after having sushi the previous night with fellow South Korean Chan Ho Park, the former Dodgers pitcher who played with the Philadelphia Phillies last season.

But after a birdie at the first hole, Yang said "my body wore down a bit" and he was glad to shoot a one-under 71 to stay tied for the lead.

Harrington shot a two-under 70 even though, in his words, his "mental focus was gone right from the start."

"I must have gotten out of the bed on the wrong side" because "something wasn't right today," he said. "I wasn't sure where I was going to hit it."

james.peltz@latimes.com

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