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Graeme McDowell looking to reclaim title in California

Updated: Wednesday, 04 Dec 2013 18:55 | Comments

Graeme McDowell was victorious at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in 2010 and 2012
Graeme McDowell was victorious at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in 2010 and 2012

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell will look to continue his brilliant record in the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in California this week.

In three appearances in the event McDowell has won it twice (2010 and 2012) and finished second in 2009, but the Northern Irishman faces a tough battle to retain his title.

Ten of the 18 competitors in the field have won at least one major title - including of course tournament host Tiger Woods - while McDowell will also have to beat a resurgent friend and compatriot Rory McIlroy, who finally claimed his first victory of 2013 in the Australian Open last week.

McIlroy began the final round in Sydney four shots behind Adam Scott, but overhauled the Masters champion with a closing 66, including a birdie on the 72nd hole as Scott bogeyed.

Scott had been looking to become only the second man, after compatriot Robert Allenby in 1995, to complete the Australian triple crown, having won the Australian PGA and Australian Masters titles last month.

PGA Tour rookie of the year Jordan Spieth is the lone debutant in California after replacing Brandt Snedeker (who withdrew with a knee injury), the 20-year-old having enjoyed a brilliant 2013 campaign.

Spieth became the first teenager in more than 80 years to win on the PGA Tour when he defeated Zach Johnson and David Hearn in a play-off for the John Deere Classic in July, going on to finish eighth in the FedEx Cup with earnings of almost €2.5million.

"It's great to look back at what happened to be in this scenario and learn from the positives," Spieth told a pre-tournament press conference. "But all in all, I think the way to have success this year is to not dwell too much on the past.

"Each year I think going back to when I was 12 years old, I've improved. My dad... a big thing for him was to say just try to look back at each month and see if you got a little better each month at something."

Spieth is now targeting success in major championships and added: "I know what it feels like right now down the stretch at a tour event. I have a feeling it will be a little different kind of pressure in a major championship.

"Nobody knows what it's like unless you've been in it. The only way to get better is to put myself there and learn from the experiences."

The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, which announced last month that the event will mark its 16th year in 2014 by relocating to Orlando's Isleworth Golf and Country Club.

Woods was due to give a press conference at 2pm local time on Wednesday and the subject of his relationship with Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee looked set to be top of the agenda.

Chamblee has admitted he was "too forceful" when he insinuated in a column for Golf.com that Woods had cheated during various rules incidents this year.

Woods received penalties for illegal drops at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Masters and was penalised two shots for moving his ball at the BMW Championship.

Chamblee's column also mentioned a drop at the Players Championship which attracted questions.

Woods' comment last month that "the ball is in the Golf Channel's court" is open to interpretation and adds an interesting dynamic to the week, with the Golf Channel one of the event's broadcast partners.

Meanwhile, Chamblee has received support from former US Open Geoff Ogilvy, who feels Woods could have avoided the "cheat" storm if he had been less guarded with the media.

Ogilvy stressed in his column in Golf World that he is "convinced" of Woods' integrity after playing with the 14-time major winner, but added: "The resulting backlash against Brandel was... unfair.

While he used language that was, in places, too hyperbolic for my taste, the principle of him being able to share with us his expert assessment is too important to be abused.

"Let's be clear: He isn't employed to give us facts; he is there to offer opinion. So he should be allowed to do so. That's what frustrated me most about this entire affair: the idea that someone in the media should somehow not be able to call it the way he or she sees it. That doesn't sit well with me.

"Much of what went on between Tiger and Brandel could have been avoided if Tiger would give open answers to questions - 'real' interviews, not just 'nothing' interviews.

"Imagine how much clearer everything could have been if he had sat down after the Masters or the Players or the BMW Championship and run us through exactly what went on and what he was thinking."

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