California - Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell says he's happy to be back at the World Challenge invitational hosted by Tiger Woods, a tournament that has been key in his career.
McDowell won the tournament in 2010, following up his US Open triumph earlier that year up the Pacific coast at Pebble Beach.
But he still believes it was his runner-up finish in 2009, when he received a last-minute invitation, that set the stage for his 2010 breakthrough.
“There's no doubt, I always look back fondly not only at 2010 when I won here but I look fondly at 2009, as well, as certainly something that kick-started a bit of a chain reaction of amazing events that would be a very defining year for me in my career so far.”
McDowell said geography played into his decision not to defend his title at Sherwood Country Club, in rolling countryside west of Los Angeles, last year. Instead he played in the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City in South Africa.
“I decided to go to Sun City before the Race to Dubai Championship because I figured it would be an easier journey from South Africa to Dubai,” he said. “So it's great to be able to come back here this year. It's a good golf course and there are good memories for me here.”
Two notable absentees this year are world number one Rory McIlroy and number two Luke Donald.
Woods, ranked third in the world, ended a two-year global victory drought here last year and he also carried the momentum forward. He won three US PGA Tour titles this season, although he was unable to add to his total of 14 major championships.
“I'm very excited because last year at this point in time I was still not quite where I wanted to be physically,” Woods said.
“I've played a full schedule for the first time in a very long time, and just very pleased with what I've done overall with my game. But obviously there's always things we need to work on.”