THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Graeme McDowell kept trying to convince himself and everyone else that his game was improving, even though he had gone two years without a trophy to prove it.
That’s what made Sunday at Sherwood so sweet.
With a pair of superb short-game shots on the back nine, McDowell closed with 4-under-par 68 to win the World Challenge by three shots over Keegan Bradley, allowing him to head home for a 10-week break with a shot of confidence.
“It’s been too long. It’s been a hell of a two years since I sat here as a winner,” McDowell said.
The three-shot margin made it look easier than it was.
Sherwood was playing longer than ever in a light rain, giving an advantage to a big hitter like Bradley, not to mention tournament host Tiger Woods. Even when McDowell built a four-shot lead through 11 holes, a careless three-putt bogey on the 13th brought Bradley within two shots with five holes to play.
McDowell responded with a 75-foot putt that he lagged to tap-in range. From a precarious spot behind the 17th green, he had to land his chip in the rough and hope it would hop onto the fringe and not run to far by the hole. He pulled it off perfectly.
He made one last birdie he didn’t need, extending his dominance at Sherwood.
It was the 10th time in 12 rounds at Sherwood that McDowell has shot in the 60s, and he now has two wins and a runner-up finish in his three trips to the World Challenge.
McDowell won for the first time since he beat Woods in a playoff at Sherwood.
Bradley, who was within one shot after a birdie on the fifth hole, closed with 69. Bo Van Pelt had 70 to finish third. Woods, the five-time champion, was never in the picture. He didn’t make birdie until the 13th hole and shot 71 to tie for fourth.
NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE: In Sun City, South Africa, Martin Kaymer shot 3-under-par 69 to earn his first title of 2012, holding on for a two-shot victory in rainy conditions.
Kaymer finished at 8-under 280, two ahead of 2011 Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel (69). Bill Haas was third after 71.
Kaymer was in trouble twice toward the end, pulling his tee shoot deep into the rough on the par-5 No. 14. He blasted out and made a brilliant birdie. He bogeyed No. 15 to allow Schwartzel to get within one shot, but recovered through the last three holes to close out his first win since November 2011.
KING’S CUP: In Khon Kaen, Thailand, Arnond Vongvanij upstaged heavy favorites Thaworn Wiratchant and Mardan Mamat with a two-stroke victory to claim his first Asian Tour title.
The 23-year-old Thai, who qualified for the Asian Tour in January, shot a final-round 64.
Arnond finished with an overall 22-under 266 at the Singha Park Kohn Kaen Golf Club.
He said “I putted well and hit well and had some luck.”