Thursday 17 January 2019

McDowell drives 'like a clown' but stays in hunt

Rory McIlroy stretches during yesterday’s round of the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy stretches during yesterday’s round of the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell might have driven "like a clown" but has his eye on the big Ryder Cup circus after a second successive 66 left him just a shot off the pace in the $7m Italian Open.

The 2010 US Open (38) overcame driving troubles to lurk just one stroke behind surprise leader Martin Kaymer on 10-under par as Rory McIlroy limped to a 70 in the lightning-delayed Memorial Tournament where Tiger Woods produced flashes of brilliance in a 67 and Shane Lowry battled to a 69.

"To be in this position through two rounds, having not played well, is obviously pleasing," said McDowell, who shares second place with fellow Ryder Cup players Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Francesco Molinari and Danny Willet.

Television coverage captured him roaring, "I'm driving it like a clown" to himself at one point in his bogey-free effort.

But brilliant iron play and razor-sharp play on and around the greens kept him going, and if he finds fairways and continues to putt well, he knows he has a chance.

"On a golf course like this where I get a lot of drivers in my hand, I typically can use it as a weapon, and both days I haven't driven it well," McDowell said.

"I didn't hit it in the fairways when I needed to, but thankfully my iron play is great, and my chipping and putting is really nice, as well."

He's also feeling liberated after being named as one of Thomas Bjorn's five vice-captains and knows a win would revive his hopes of a fifth Ryder Cup appearance at a venue where he has won two French Opens.

"I'd dearly love to compete in these Rolex Series Events, if not win one," said McDowell, who has been winless for two and a half years.


"It would do a lot for me, would do a lot for my summer, a lot for my Ryder Cup bid and a lot for my confidence in general."

"My head will be down this weekend, and I will be grinding really hard. There's a lot of really great players in this field. I'll have to play well to win."

While Kaymer (33) hasn't won an event since he captured the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst, he still thinks like a two-time Major winner.

"It doesn't matter if you've won Majors and if you had those situations at The Ryder Cups," said the German, who carded eight birdies in a flawless second-round 63.

"It's really exciting to be in a position that you can win a golf tournament again. It was just a matter of putting the right mental attitude on to the golf course. I did very well the last two days."

Pádraig Harrington shot a bogey-free 66 to share 41st on five-under as Paul Dunne battled to a 69 to make the four-under cut on the mark.

On the other side of the Atlantic, McIlroy followed his opening 74 with an erratic 70 to finish on the level par cut line.

After making four birdies in his first 13 holes to get to two under, he wobbled with bogeys at the par-five fifth and seventh holes.

Lowry finished with his seventh birdie of the day at the last for a 69 that left him seven shots behind clubhouse leader Ben An (67) on two-under.

But the excitement all came from Woods, who like McIlroy, sparkled in mid-round before he let shots get away coming home and shot 67 to put himself in position on five-under.

Four over after seven holes on Thursday, he three-putted the first but caught fire and birdied the third, fifth, seventh and ninth before provoking Tiger-mania by holing out from 95 yards for an eagle three at the 11th.

He then his the flag at the 164-yard 12th, leaving himself a six-footer to go six under before the hooter sounded and a 90-minute weather delay killed his momentum.

After missing his birdie putt on his return, he missed another from five feet at the next and followed a birdie at the par-five 15th with misses from seven feet for birdie at the 16th and three feet for par at the 17th before shaving the hole again on the last.

Tullamore's Stuart Grehan also missed a string of chances in the Swiss Challenge, carding a bogey-free 70 to trail Marcel Schneider by 12 shots in three under with Ruaidhri McGee (69) two-under and Cormac Sharvin (72) one-under.

Brendan McGovern is two shots behind Argentina's Rafael Gomez in Shipco Masters in Denmark, tied for sixth after a four-under 68 but Banbridge's Olivia Mehaffey shot 77 to miss the cut on nine over in the U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek.

Australia's Sarah Jane Smith shot a second successive 67 to take an early four-shot lead over compatriot Su-Hyun Oh on 10-under.

At the PGA Europro Tour's Matchroom Sport Championship, Meath's Brian Casey closed with a course record, nine-under 63 to finish just two shots behind Billy Spooner, tied third with Whitehead's John Ross Galbraith (66) on 13-under.

  • Italian Open, Sky Sports Golf, 9.30am
  • The Memorial Tournament, Sky Sports Golf, 7.30pm

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