Sport Golf

Tuesday 16 January 2018

McDowell down but not out as he revels in 'Major' ordeal

Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell

William S Callahan

GRAEME McDOWELL admitted the golf course was "driving me insane" but insisted he revelled in the Major-style challenge served up by Royal Melbourne during this week's World Cup of Golf.

Jason Day, the home team's best hope of a winner through 36 holes and McDowell's playing companion, wasn't as benevolent, saying the links was so rock-hard, inconsistent and unpredictable, it bordered on the unfair.

Day's criticism cast doubt on the wisdom of playing top-rank professional tournaments on successive weeks at the same golf course ... Royal Melbourne last week hosted the Australian Masters, won by Day's World Cup playing partner, Adam Scott.

"It can make you want to snap your club over your knees," said the Aussie. "You look at the ninth hole. G-Mac landed his ball just on the green and it bounced and rolled 30 paces.

"He was coming in with a short iron so, where you land it perfect just on the front of the green and it bounces 30 paces over the back, that's just a little unfair, I think," added Day.

Yet Australian PGA Tournament Director Andrew Langford-Jones insisted the golf course "was exactly where we were hoping it would be" for this weekend's $8m showpiece.

Only 14 players in the 60-man field completed the first two rounds below par, Thomas Bjorn doing best of all on eight-under after a second-round 68. The Dane (42) led America's Kevin Streelman by one with Day and Ricardo Santos of Portugal three further back.

Streelman and his US partner Matt Kuchar led the team standings on 10-under, three ahead of Danish duo Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen, while Ireland were 17th in the 26 man field on six-over.

SURRENDERED

Though McDowell and Shane Lowry had surrendered all hope of winning a third World Cup for Ireland, the Portrush native, tied 21st on one-over with Scott after an even-par 71 in the second round, looked forward once again to pitting his wits against Royal Melbourne this weekend.

Saying he enjoyed playing a world-class links in such fiery condition, McDowell compared the lightning pace of the greens and treacherous approach shots to the test occasionally found at Major Championship venues.

Lowry wallowed in 45th on five-over after dropping shots on the final two holes of his second round 72.

Meanwhile, Simon Thornton was the only one of seven Irish competitors to make the cut in the South African Open. Two birdies in the final four holes of his second-round 72 at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg saw Thornton through on the mark, two-under-par, 10 behind joint leaders Charl Schwartzel and Marco Crespi.

Pre-tournament favourite Schwartzel had five birdies and an eagle on his card as he completed the front nine in 29 strokes, but happily settled for a 65 after finding the greens a bit bumpy on the way home.

Italian Crespo, who graduated from Q-School in third place last week, opened with a 65 on Thursday and consolidated that effort with a 67 yesterday.

World Cup of Golf,

Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 4, 1.0am

South African Open, Day 3

Live, Sky Sports 4, 10.30am

Irish Independent

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