But this was a duel from the start.
McDowell started with a two-shot lead and kept his distance until Bradley holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the fifth. Bradley made back-to-back bogeys at the turn to fall three shots behind, and McDowell stretched his lead to four shots by starting the back nine with two quick birdies.
The par-5 13th then set the stage for a nervous final hour.
McDowell laid up, hit a poor wedge and then three-putted for bogey, ending his streak of 41 consecutive holes at Sherwood at par or better. Bradley made a 6-foot birdie putt for a two-shot swing, and the game was on.
The most important stroke might have been a putt he didn't make. From left of the 14th fairway, he had no choice but to punch it under a tree and run it up to right side of the green. From some 75 feet away, he used his putter to lag it up to inside a foot for a safe par to keep his two-shot lead.
"That lag putt was huge," he said. "If I go three-putting there, the question marks start coming. Great two-putt."
He made a 10-footer on the 16th to match Bradley's tap-in birdie, and then he effectively closed out the former PGA champion with the deft chip from behind the 17th green.
He typically calls his home clubs — Rathmore in Northern Ireland and Lake Nona in Orlando — and open the bar for free drinks when he wins. He expects that to be case at his new tavern called Nona Blue.
"Thankfully, it's not open yet," McDowell said. "So I'll save a few quid this time around."
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