By Mark Lamport-Stokes
THOUSAND OAKS, California (Reuters) - After two years of golfing frustration and an absence from the winner's circle despite several close calls, life has got much better for Graeme McDowell in recent weeks, both on and off the course.
The ever-popular Northern Irishman announced his engagement to Kristin Stape last month in Dubai and on Sunday he triumphed by three shots in the World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods.
For the next 10 weeks, he will enjoy a well-earned break with his wife-to-be in their new home in Orlando while he completes the finishing touches to his own tavern outside the gates of Lake Nona, which he plans to open by late January.
"It's been a very fun week," McDowell told reporters after holding off playing partner Keegan Bradley with a closing four-under-par 68 at a rain-soaked Sherwood Country Club.
"For two years I've been saying things like 'processes' and 'trying to get better' and 'be patient' and hopefully the wins will come. I guess I got fed up with telling everybody that I'm playing well, playing well.
"I'm relieved to get across the line and take some nice confidence into this little off-period I've got coming up. It really is about the processes, but we need to win. That's why we're out here."
California has been a happy hunting ground for McDowell who has twice won the World Challenge at Sherwood and clinched his first major title in the 2010 U.S. Open held at Pebble Beach.
VICTORY FOR FIANCEE
He was especially happy, though, that his fiancée was able to fly into the 'Golden State' on Friday and watch him seal victory in the elite 18-man event where every player was ranked in the world's top 35.
"Hopefully this is the first of many," McDowell smiled. "Getting engaged three or four weeks ago was a huge step in my life, and this has really made it a lot of fun.
"I certainly enter a new chapter in my life which I feel is going to bring a lot of solidity and support to my golf career and this is a great way to begin it.
"She's in support of what I do and loves to try and get out when she can. She flew in Friday night, and thankfully it was worth the trip."
McDowell was mainly frustrated this year because he knew was playing good golf with little reward, though he came close to winning a second major crown after playing in the last group in the final round of the U.S. Open and the British Open.
"Getting in the last group of some major championships, that is what I dream of," said the Northern Irishman, who tied for second at the U.S. Open and finished joint fifth at the British Open.
"Yes, I'd like to win those, but you can't win them all and it is frustrating at this point in time. The game wasn't giving me a huge amount this year and I've not really got a lot to show for myself. You never deserve things in this game, you know.
"You gotta just try and stay in there and try and keep doing it ... this (win) will certainly give me something nice to think about in the off-season."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Peter Rutherford)