Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan will renew their Ryder Cup rivalry when the 2011 PGA Tour gets under way on Thursday.
McDowell famously beat Mahan in the final singles match at Celtic Manor in October, securing a one-point victory for the European side. And the reigning U.S. Open champion is more than happy to lock horns with the American once more in the 34-man field at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, after being paired to play with Mahan.
2011 HYUNDAI TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
The 2011 PGA Tour season kicks off with its annual winners-only showdown at Kapalua.
"Since the Ryder Cup, we've gained much more of a mutual respect for each other. He handled it very well," McDowell said. "In some ways that has brought up closer together. I'm looking forward to playing with him."
McDowell was 1 up with three holes to play at Celtic Manor before extending his lead with a superb birdie on the par-4 16th. That left Mahan needing to win the final two holes to halve the match and retain the trophy for the United States with a 14-14 tie.
But after coming up short of the 17th green he duffed his chip, missed a par putt and conceded the hole and match to McDowell, sparking wild celebrations.
McDowell's Ryder Cup teammate and fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy was also eligible to take part over the Plantation Course at Kapalua this week after his win at Quail Hollow last year. But the 21-year-old has opted to wait until the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 20 before making his return to competitive action.
Another Ryder Cup star, England's Ian Poulter, has made the trip and is in high spirits after ending 2010 with victory in the Shark Shootout alongside American Dustin Johnson.
"I'm very much looking forward to starting the year off as I ended it last year, in good form," Poulter said. "I played great at the back end of the year after the Ryder Cup. It's nice to come to Hawaii knowing this is a great field, great tournament, and I'm playing well."
Asked about his goals for the season, Poulter added: "I have had the same mindset the last couple of years, trying to focus on the majors.
"Winning the WGC (Accenture Match Play Championship) was the big thing for me, not only confidence-wise, but obviously to get the monkey off my back of winning on the PGA Tour,” he said. “That was huge.
"The next step for me is to try to win a major, so that's what I've got to try to do this year,” he explained. "I've got to try to get focused and I have to try to stay rested and play well for those big tournaments."