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McDowell upstages Woods

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell capped off his greatest year with two clutch putts that gave him the greatest comeback ever against Tiger Woods.

McDowell holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff Sunday in the World Challenge then made a longer birdie putt to deny Woods a victory in his final tournament of the year. Woods hosts this charity event with a field of 18 ranked among the world's top 50.

"They're the kind of putts that you make them and you can't really believe it afterwards," McDowell said. "They were the stuff of dreams — 2010 has been the stuff of dreams."

Woods, despite losing a four-shot lead, was poised to end a turbulent year with a win in his final event. Tied for the lead on No. 18, he stuffed an 8-iron inside 3 feet for a sure birdie. But McDowell answered with birdie.

In the playoff on the same hole, McDowell coaxed in another birdie putt from about 25 feet. Woods had about 15 feet to extend the playoff, but it missed just right of the cup.

"Probably two of the great putts I've made," McDowell said.

It was the first time Woods has ever lost a tournament when leading by at least three shots going into the final round.

"It was a great week, even though I didn't win," Woods said. "I'm proud of the way I played (Sunday), even though I lost."

McDowell closed with 69, while Woods shot 73 to match him at 16-under 272.

A year ago, McDowell was a last-minute alternate to this tournament when Woods' personal life began to collapse. McDowell finished second and earned enough world ranking points that he eventually got into the U.S. Open, which he won at Pebble Beach.

And this win capped a dream season for McDowell, who moved up to No. 7 in the world.

LPGA: Hjorth holds on

ORLANDO — Maria Hjorth won the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship, shooting par 72 to hold off a field that struggled to make par.

Hjorth closed at 5-under 283 at Grand Cypress Golf Club, where only six of 120 players finished below par for the tournament. Third-round leader Amy Yang (74) finished one shot back.

"Every win is emotional for me," said Hjorth, who earned her fourth win on tour but first since becoming a mother. "But being a mother and coming back after giving birth is definitely something that I've been hoping for. It's nice to prove that it's possible."

Yani Tseng earned player of the year honors, Na Yeon Choi won the money title, and Jiyai Shin stayed atop the world rankings.

Westwood still on top: Lee Westwood cemented his year-end No. 1 ranking with an eight-shot win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa. The Englishman, who had led the 12-player field since Friday, shot 4-under 68 to finish at 17-under 271. Tim Clark (71) finished second at 9 under.

Q-school: Billy Mayfair and Ben Martin were tied for the lead at Orange County National in Orlando in PGA Tour qualifying. Mayfair, who shot 4-under 67, and Martin (71) were at 16-under 341 through five of six rounds, a shot ahead of Bio Him (68). The top 25 earn tour cards for next year.

Rookie of year: Though he didn't win a tournament, Rickie Fowler was voted the top rookie on the PGA Tour by the players. Rory McIlroy, Derek Lamely and Alex Prugh were also on the ballot.

McDowell upstages Woods 12/05/10 [Last modified: Sunday, December 5, 2010 9:17pm]
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