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Golf Tidbits: McDowell gains from Tiger's losses

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One man gains from another man's losses, an old saying goes.

Trying to measure Tiger Woods' losses at this point is impossible. Looking at the gains for Graeme McDowell is another story.

A quick background story first. Woods bailed on his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, last weekend after suffering injuries in his much- talked about SUV crash. That created a spot in the field for McDowell, who was flying from China to Florida via Los Angeles.

When he landed in Los Angeles on Sunday night, officials from the Tiger Woods Foundation, which runs the Chevron World Challenge, asked him to wait in L.A. for 24 hours. Around noon the following day, McDowell received official word he was in the tournament.

McDowell grabbed the last spot in the lucrative 18-player event, that also had one new caveat. This was the first year the tournament awarded world ranking points for those in the field.

Big deal, you might think. McDowell will tell you it was absolutely a big deal. He entered the event ranked 55th in the world rankings. A third-place finish or better would vault him into the top-50 in the world.

Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon and the 30-year-old from Northern Ireland has a share of the lead after three rounds. After that round, he was asked in a television interview how you replace Tiger Woods. McDowell joked, "You don't of course, but I guess being in the lead helps."

Heading into the final round, McDowell had a lot on his mind. If he could hang on and win, he would collect the $1.35 million first-place check and easily move into the world top 50.

"I made the decision I wasn't going to go chasing the top 50 in the world rankings," McDowell admitted after the third round. "I kind of made the decision I was just going to believe in my game and get myself in the top 50 at the start of next year. Obviously this opportunity came along and changed things."

McDowell closed with a two-under 70 to finish alone in second place, behind winner Jim Furyk. That finish helped McDowell jump to 38th in the world.

"It was such a bonus, obviously, to get in here," McDowell said. "And the boost up the world rankings is obviously just huge for me really."

The world top 50 is significant at the end of the year because being ranked among the top 50 gets you into the 2010 Masters.

He does not automatically gain entry into the other three majors, but seeing how he posted a pair of top-20 finishes in the 2009 majors, McDowell shouldn't have to worry too much about going through the qualifying sites to gain entry into either the U.S. or British Opens.

He will be in the first World Golf Championship event -- the Accenture Match Play -- in February and a good finish there will go a long way in keeping him not only in the top 50, but getting him entry into the other three majors.

McDowell will tee it up at Augusta National for the third time. He is coming off a tie for 17th there last year and he earned a return engagement thanks to Woods missing his own tournament.

TURN-AROUND COMING FOR ALLENBY?

Year in and year out, Robert Allenby is one of the steadiest players on the PGA Tour. In the last five seasons, he has finished outside the top 50 in the world just one time and that year, 2007, he ranked 51st at the end of the season.

For a player to be consistently ranked so high, he must be doing something right. Allenby has done many things well throughout his career, but winning has not been one of them.

The Australian's last win on the PGA Tour was in 2001, while his last European Tour crown was all the way back in 1996. His last victory anywhere came in 2005, when he swept the three big Australian events.

In one hot stretch of golf, Allenby claimed the Australian Open, Australian PGA and Australian Masters. Four full years later, and he is finally back in the win column.

Allenby bested Henrik Stenson to win the 12-player Nedbank Challenge in a playoff. You might turn your nose up at the win since it was only a 12-player field, yet nine of the 12 were ranked in the top 30 in the world, and Allenby joined that group with the victory.

Allenby has posted 23 top-10 finishes over the past four seasons, including three second-place finishes. He shared the PGA Tour lead with nine top-10 finishes in 2008.

Maybe his victory at the Nedbank Challenge will energize Allenby and help him snap his long winless drought on the PGA and European Tours.

MINI-TIDBITS

Congrats to Troy Merritt and Amanda Blumenherst for winning the PGA and LPGA Qualifying Tournaments, respectively. Both deserved more publicity, but all the focus in the golf world was on the Tiger Woods situation.

The Nationwide Tour will make its first trip to Colombia in March for the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open. That will be the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event in South America.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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