Tuesday 23 January 2018

McDowell finds range for Ryder assault

William S Callahan

MISSION accomplished! That was the verdict of US Open champion Graeme McDowell yesterday after a closing 69, his fourth successive round in the 60s on The Diamond Course, clinched him a share of third place at the Austrian Open.

"I came here to put my game under pressure and to compete at the weekend and I achieved that," explained McDowell, who earned a modest €38,750 after finishing in a tie with Swede Alex Noren and England's Danny Willett on 14-under.

That was three strokes shy of the play-off, in which Spain's Jose Manuel Lara beat David Lynn with a par four on the first hole of sudden death, the difficult 18th, to seal the fairytale victory which has rescued his career on the European Tour.

Though McDowell conceded his iron play was "a little loose", he was delighted to be able to shake off the ring rust so quickly after a four-week break and head for next week's Ryder Cup with his game in such good order.

The Portrush man got himself within striking distance of the leaders when he birdied three of his first four holes on the back nine yesterday.

Yet McDowell's bid for his third victory in three months effectively expired when he was caught between clubs on with his approach into the breeze at 16 and then three-putted from the front fringe for bogey.

Damien McGrane certainly bounced back brilliantly from Friday's 76 to put in a spectacular weekend's work, following up Saturday's 67 with a fabulous closing 65, which included five birdies and an eagle three at 14.

"I made a bags of it on Friday," said the Kells man, who finished in a share of sixth place on 13-under. "Yet I'd an excellent weekend. It's a while since I played the final 36 holes at a tournament that well and not having any bogeys was nice.

"I've been playing well for the past couple of months but this'll give me the confidence to take it a step further," added McGrane, who banked €24,375 to send his earnings for the season to €479,923 from 24 events, good enough for 47th place in the Race to Dubai.

Yet the round of the day was the superlative 64, including 10 birdies, posted by Lara, whose second Tour victory assures him of his card in 2011.

The man from Valencia had been in grave danger of losing his playing credentials after a disastrous run of nine missed cuts in recent months, and he still lay 130th in the money list despite a confidence-boosting fourth-place finish at the Dutch Open last Sunday week. The €125,000 he won yesterday lifted Lara to 93rd on Tour.

A closing 68 earned Simon Thornton a share of 26th on six-under and €7,012, while Gary Murphy slumped to 64th (worth €1,875) with his final-round 75.

Irish Independent

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