Monday 9 December 2019

McDowell dodges the rain to steal limelight

Bernie McGuire , at Castle Stuart

Graeme McDowell took centre stage after equalling the course record with a 64 to move into a share of the lead on 11-under par after Day 2 of the rain-affected Barclay's Scottish Open.

However, on several occasions during McDowell's 20-minute post-round interview, he kept referring to 'The Man' -- such is the affection McDowell holds for reigning US Open champion, Rory McIlroy.

McDowell will be looking to catch up with Rory McIlroy early next week for a practice round at Royal St George's

"Once I'm done here, I'm heading straight down to Royal St George's on Sunday night, to play a practice round with The Man," said McDowell.

"I would love to have a knock with him, or I might even play a few holes with Ben Curtis, a good friend of mine, as well. Everyone has their own little way of building up, like when they want to play and stuff, and we know he's going to be a busy man. But we'll have a chat. We'll see what the craic is."

McDowell enjoyed a dream second-round start to boost his hopes of a second Scottish Open success in four years.

He found himself four-under-par after just four holes en route to equalling the course record of eight-under-par, and that put him into a share of the lead with the Scottish pair of Peter Whiteford and Scott Jamieson, who each shot 66s.

However, two separate rain delays late in the day threw the event into confusion, leaving half the field -- including four Irish players, among them Paul McGinley, who is contesting his 500th European Tour event -- having to resume their second round this morning.

McDowell took full advantage of the earlier morning calm to register his third course record this year.

He birdied five of his six opening holes in shooting a 62 on the final day of the US PGA season-opening Tournament of Champions to match the low score on the Kapalua Resort course in Hawaii.

McDowell then equalled the PGA National course record with a last-round 64 in the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida.

His achievements continue to dispel any lingering myths over a decision to switch to Srixon clubs at the start of 2011.

"It was a good day's work and when I got to the golf course this morning and we realised conditions were going to be easy, it was a matter of going out there and taking advantage," said McDowell.

"I made a good birdie on 10 and a good par save on 11, and I eagled 12 and birdied 13 to be four-under-par through four holes. That was a dream start.

"But it's like any links course in the world; if you don't get wind, if you don't get the elements, it will be taken apart, and that was kind of how it was this morning."

Triple Major-winner Padraig Harrington shrugged off sinus and hay fever concerns to record a 67 and trail just three behind McDowell at eight-under-par. "It was a beautiful day for golf. We couldn't have asked for nicer conditions out there," said Harrington long before the rain delays.

"I holed some nice putts, but I did play better in practice, so it's improving. This course is giving you plenty of opportunities and it puts you under pressure to make birdies.

"We've already seen three 64s today, so I'm going to have to find a 63 or 64 over the weekend."

Joining McDowell and Harrington over the weekend are fellow Major champions Paul Lawrie (64) at nine-under-par, Ernie Els (69) on seven-under-par and Phil Mickelson (67) on four-under-par.

Along with McGinley, who was five-under after 11 holes, others still to finish their second rounds include Peter Lawrie, who is on six-under-par after 12 holes, Darren Clarke, six-under through eight, Shane Lowry, on the projected cut mark of four-under after eight, and Michael Hoey who sits on one-under-par after 14 holes.

Damien McGrane made it through to the weekend with a 67 for four-under, while Gareth Maybin faces an anxious wait one off the projected cut after a 68 yesterday.

The Scottish Open,

Live, BBC2, 12.50/BBC1, 2.40

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