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McDowell Outduels Bradley

  • Ted Ligety smiles on the podium after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    Ted Ligety smiles on the podium after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • Ted Ligety smiles on the podium after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    Ted Ligety smiles on the podium after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • From left, second place finisher Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, winner Ted Ligety and third place finisher Davise Simoncelli, of Italy, react at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    From left, second place finisher Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, winner Ted Ligety and third place finisher Davise Simoncelli, of Italy, react at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • From left, second place finisher Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, winner Ted Ligety and third place finisher Davise Simoncelli, of Italy, react at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    From left, second place finisher Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, winner Ted Ligety and third place finisher Davise Simoncelli, of Italy, react at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Alexis Pinturault from France, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Alexis Pinturault from France, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Alexis Pinturault from France, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Alexis Pinturault from France, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

    Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

  • Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, reacts after his second place finish at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, reacts after his second place finish at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, reacts after his second place finish at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, reacts after his second place finish at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

    Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

  • Keegan Bradley tees off on the 17th hole during the final round of the World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)

    Keegan Bradley tees off on the 17th hole during the final round of the World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)

  • Ted Ligety smiles on the podium after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • Ted Ligety smiles on the podium after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • From left, second place finisher Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, winner Ted Ligety and third place finisher Davise Simoncelli, of Italy, react at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • From left, second place finisher Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, winner Ted Ligety and third place finisher Davise Simoncelli, of Italy, react at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Alexis Pinturault from France, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Alexis Pinturault from France, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Marcel Hirscher from Austria, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Ted Ligety from the United States, speeds down the course during the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
  • Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, reacts after his second place finish at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, reacts after his second place finish at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • Ted Ligety reacts after winning at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colo, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
  • Keegan Bradley tees off on the 17th hole during the final round of the World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)

Thousand Oaks, Calif. — Graeme McDowell kept trying to convince himself and everyone else that his game was improving, even though he had gone two years without a trophy to prove it.

That’s what made yesterday at Sherwood so sweet.

With a pair of superb short-game shots on the back nine, McDowell closed with a 4-under 68 to win the World Challenge by three shots over Woodstock, Vt., native Keegan Bradley, allowing him to head home for a 10-week break with a shot of confidence.

“It’s been too long. It’s been a hell of a two years since I sat here as a winner,” McDowell said. “We all put winning up on a pedestal as the ultimate goal. We like to say that it’s all about the process and going through the motions and trying to get better. But let’s be honest: We all measure ourselves by the win. I can say that now.”

The three-shot margin made it look easier than it was.

Sherwood was playing longer than ever in a light rain, giving an advantage to a big hitter like Bradley, not to mention tournament host Tiger Woods. Even when McDowell built a four-shot lead through 11 holes, a careless three-putt bogey on the 13th brought Bradley within two shots with five holes to play.

McDowell responded with a 75-foot putt that he lagged to tap-in range, a key moment for someone coming off a three-putt bogey. From a precarious spot behind the 17th green, he had to land his chip in the rough and hope it would hop onto the fringe and not run to far by the hole. He pulled it off perfectly.

“This really caps off my season,” McDowell said. “We try not to put winning on a pedestal, but this one feels very sweet because it’s been a grind all year.”

McDowell won for the first time since he beat Woods in a playoff at Sherwood to close out a dream season in 2010 that included his first major at the U.S. Open and the winning point for Europe at the Ryder Cup.

This win followed a year of frustration. He played in the final group of the U.S. Open and British Open but came up short, and he lost some enthusiasm going into tournaments late in the year. He talked all week about a 10-week break, some of it in Northern Ireland and the rest in Orlando, Fla., where he just built a new house and he’s opening a tavern outside the gates of Lake Nona.

Bradley, who was within one shot after a birdie on the fifth hole, closed with a 69. Bo Van Pelt had a 70 to finish third. Woods, the tournament host and five-time champion, was never in the picture. He didn’t make birdie until the 13th hole and shot 71 to tie for fourth.

Skiing

Ligety Blazes to GS Win

Beaver Creek, Colo. — Ted Ligety of the United States easily captured his second straight World Cup giant slalom race with a flawless and fast final run.

Ligety finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 25.59 seconds yesterday, holding off top rival Marcel Hirscher of Austria by 1.76 seconds. Davide Simoncelli of Italy was third.

The last racer of the day, Ligety gained speed throughout the tricky course and built on his first-run advantage. Soon after finishing, Ligety bent down to kiss the snow.

These days, no one can come close to catching him. Ligety won the season opening GS race in Soelden, Austria, by a whopping 2.75 seconds.

The 28-year-old from Park City, Utah, won two straight overall GS titles, before Hirscher halted his string last season.

Vonn Sweeps Lake Louise

Lake Louise, Alberta — Lindsey Vonn completed a sweep of World Cup races at Lake Louise for the second straight year.

Vonn won yesterday’s super-G in a time of 1 minute, 22.82 seconds. She also won two downhill races over the weekend for the hat trick.

American teammate Julia Mancuso was second in the super-G in 1:23.25, while Anna Fenninger of Austria was third in 1:23.27.

Women’s Soccer

UNC Wins 21st Title

San Diego — North Carolina scored three goals in the second half to Beat Penn State 4-1 and win its 21st NCAA women’s soccer championship.

The Tar Heels (15-5-3), who were making their 26th appearance in the final-four College Cup, won the title for the first time since 2009.

Penn State, which was playing in its first women’s soccer championship game, finished its season at 21-4-2.

With the game tied 1-1, Hanna Gardner scored 48 seconds into the second half when she converted Katie Bowen’s corner kick with a header past Penn State goalkeeper Erin McNulty. It was Gardner’s second goal of the season.

Satara Murray, who had set up the Tar Heels first goal early in the opening half, made it a 3-1 game in the 64th minute when she put home a rebound of a shot by Kelly McFarlane. It was her first goal of the season.

A little over 10 minutes later North Carolina’s Crystal Dunn set up Ranee Premji on a pass from the end line on the left wing and Premji made a one-touch volley and it was 4-1.

North Carolina had taken a 1-0 lead in the second minute of play in the first half as Kealia Ohai rifled a shot on her left foot from just outside the top of the box 18 yards out into the upper right hand corner of the net. Murray had set the scoring play up with perfect high ball that led Ohai perfectly. For Ohai’s, who scored the overtime game-winner in North Carolina’s semifinal final, the goal was her ninth of the season.

Penn State got even in the 26th minute when Christine Nairn slipped a pass through three North Carolina defenders to Taylor Schram on the left wing and Schram shot over goalie Adelaide Gay into the far right hand corner. It was Schram’s fifth goal of the season.

North Carolina outshot Penn State, 24-12 for the game, including 9-4 in the first half and 15-8 in the second.