Saturday 25 November 2017

G-Mac inspired by McIlroy rivalry

Bernie McGuire

IF Graeme McDowell needed a stimulus to try and salvage a wretched season, then he found it playing alongside his friend Rory McIlroy on Day 2 of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The two US Open winners recorded 67s in ideal conditions at Carnoustie, with McDowell higher up the leaderboard, sharing fourth place at 10-under par, just two shots behind a third Ulsterman, Michael Hoey.

At Kingsbarns, Hoey recorded a second straight 66 to move into a tie for the lead with England’s Tommy Fleetwood (20), who heads the Challenge Tour money list Fleetwood was also at Kingsbarns signing for a 63, one off Lee Westwood’s course record. Louis Oosthuizen is third on 11- under after a 67 at Carnoustie. It was this weekend 12 months ago when McDowell became the star of the victorious European Ryder Cup team – one of many great achievements in a glorious 2010 for the Portrush man. However, after starting 2011 with a promising third in Abu Dhabi, it has been a season of disappointment for the 32-year-old.


Yesterday, though, he was more like his old self and he credits his playing partner for inspiring him. “When you are playing alongside Rory, he makes the game look so easy. He came out of the gates today to birdie four of his first five holes after I started with five very average pars,” said McDowell. “I then got a birdie at six and that got the competitive side of me going. “Of course we are trying to beat each other – we are competitors as well as good friends. But while it’s nice to end the day in front of Rory, it’s also tough to get the balance right as I am using a lot of emotional energy in taking care of my ‘little brother’ in pointing him in the right direction.”

Hoey is no stranger to leading the ‘Celebration of Links Golf’ – he was tied for the lead two years ago with McIlroy. And McDowell is delighted to see the Belfast man in contention. “I grew up playing amateur golf with Michael and I know what an impressive striker of the ball he is, but while the application was sometimes in question, any time he got his head right he did well,” he said. “It’s good to see him playing well again.” McIlroy was five-under for his closing seven holes on Thursday and was then four-under par for his opening five yesterday before signing for a 67 and a share of 19th place at sevenunder alongside Shane Lowry (69) and Peter Lawrie (67).

Carnoustie looked set to exact some revenge on Padraig Harrington, a twotime winner of the event and also the 2007 British Open winner on the Angus course. The Dubliner had been forced to wait on the final fairway as a helicopter was landing to the side of the hotel before he put his second shot into a greenside bunker. He then failed to get out of the bunker in regulation, but delighted the crowd when he holed his fourth shot for par and a round of 71.

“I was thinking after I hit my tee shot down the middle of the fairway that if I had done that in 2007 it would have been a lot easier,” said Harrington. “Every single shot I hit today I was thinking back to 2007. I am still very cautious on this course and I would rather play it in tougher conditions.” Rookie Paul Cutler carded a 73 at Carnoustie to be at level par, while Damien McGrane added a 72 at Carnoustie to stay at one-over.

Gareth Maybin had a 73 at St Andrews, while Darren Clarke continued to struggle, signing for a 74 at Carnoustie to be three-over. DunhillLinksChampionship, Live,SkySports1,1.30

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