California suits Graeme McDowell

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- He is from Northern Ireland, went to college at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, lives in Florida, and is at the end of a worldwide journey that saw him go to China, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

But there is no doubt Graeme McDowell likes Southern California, specifically Sherwood Country Club.

"If I was to get the job done tomorrow, I may have to stay an extra day and get a real estate agent and have a look around in the area, because there's definitely something weird going on here," McDowell said.

Weird might not be the correct word to describe McDowell's golf, which has been excellent at Sherwood Country Club in three appearances. In 11 rounds, he has never failed to break par and has shot nine rounds in the 60s.

He finished second here in 2009 and won here in 2010 -- beating tournament host Tiger Woods in a playoff. And now he's in position to win again, holding a 2-stroke advantage over Keegan Bradley heading into the final round of the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual.

"It's certainly my kind of course," McDowell said. "I think it's a premium on accuracy and a premium on good, aggressive iron play. I've always kind of rolled the ball here as well. Definitely a golf course that sets up for me."

Whatever happens Sunday, this remains a special tournament, a special place for McDowell.

He got a last-second invite in 2009 to fill the field when Woods was unable to play, and he managed a second-place finish to Jim Furyk. The world ranking points he earned for that finish pushed him into the top 50 in the world at the end of the year, which meant an invitation to the Masters.

Although it did not directly get him into the U.S. Open, McDowell later earned his way into that tournament as well via the world rankings -- and went on to win the tournament.

It was a storybook type of year for McDowell, who previously had won in Wales, won another tournament in Spain, made the winning putt for the European Ryder Cup team, then twice holed long putts on Woods on the final day to first force a playoff and then win the World Challenge.

"There's no doubt there's something in the California air for me," said McDowell, whose 2010 U.S. Open victory came at Pebble Beach in Northern California. "Even Olympic this year to a certain extent, Pebble, three times I've played here have been very kind to me. I need to probably add a little bit more West Coast swing into my schedule."

McDowell's reference to Olympic was for this year's U.S. Open, in which he was in the final group along with Furyk and finished second. He also was in the last group at the Open Championship and failed to win.

For that reason, McDowell considers this a rather mediocre year. He also was in the final pairing with Woods at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and had a poor Ryder Cup as well.

"It would be nice to kind of get the reward because I feel like I've been playing pretty solidly for a couple months and got nothing from it," McDowell said. "But this game, there's no such thing as deserving things, and you've got to earn it. I'll go see what happens tomorrow, and it'll be a nice way to finish the year if I can get a good win."