McDowell and Mahan to reignite Cup rivalry at Kapalua

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan, whose emotional singles match decided this year’s Ryder Cup, will be reunited in the first round of next week’s Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland poses with his trophy after defeating Tiger Woods in a playoff hole to win the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament in Thousand Oaks, California, December 5, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Northern Ireland’s McDowell and American Mahan have been paired together by organisers of the 2011 PGA Tour’s season opener at Kapalua and will tee off at 1210 local (2210 GMT) next Thursday.

“As a golf fan, one of the most compelling moments of 2010 was their final-day match up during the Ryder Cup,” tournament director Nancy Cross said in a statement on Thursday.

“To have these two paired together for the start of the season ... well, we couldn’t have scripted it better.”

With the overall score tantalisingly poised at 13- 13-1/2, Mahan and McDowell had everything to play for in the final Ryder Cup match out on the course at Celtic Manor, Wales in early October.

Mahan, unbeaten in five games on his Cup debut when the U.S. beat Europe two years ago, trailed by three after 11 holes but fought back to one down with three to play, needing only a half for his team to retain the cherished trophy.

However, McDowell sank a curling birdie putt from 12 feet on the 16th green to go two up before securing a 3&1 win with a conceded par at the 17th where Mahan succumbed to nerves and fluffed his chip.

“I was excited to have that opportunity to have a chance to win the Cup like that,” said Mahan, who could hardly muster a word at the post-Ryder Cup news conference and at one point broke down in tears.

“It was a great experience. To me, it’s just the best time of golf. I only take positives from it, that’s for sure.”

McDowell, who had won his first major title in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach four months earlier, said he had never felt such pressure as he did in his gripping duel with Mahan.

“The U.S. Open felt like a back nine with my dad back at Portrush compared to that,” he added. “I was really nervous there. Wow. It’s a different feeling.”

In other pairings for next week’s Tournament of Champions, 2003 winner Ernie Els of South Africa will tee off with Australia’s Jason Day while Italy’s Francisco Molinari will accompany Australian Adam Scott.

The final two-ball in the elite field of 34 will feature holder Geoff Ogilvy of Australia and 2001 winner Jim Furyk of the United States, who was this year’s FedExCup champion.

The $5.6 million event, which brings together the PGA Tour winners from the previous season, will be played from January 6-9.

Editing by Greg Stutchbury