Sunday 16 December 2018

McDowell underlines Ryder 'ambition' after positive day in Paris

Graeme McDowell: Impressive effort. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images
Graeme McDowell: Impressive effort. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell believes he can put himself on the Ryder Cup "radar" after a super 68 left him just a shot off the lead in the windblown HNA Open de France.

As Seamus Power fired an immaculate four-under 66 in the PGA Tour's Quicken Loans National to lie in the top 10, just three shots behind leader Andrew Landry and JJ Spaun, McDowell (38) insisted it's not too late to challenge for a fifth Ryder Cup cap at the Paris venue where he's already won twice.

Welshman Bradley Dredge (44) set the pace with a super, four-under par 67, but McDowell is lurking in a tie for second with England's Andy Sullivan on three-under.

"This is where it all happened for me," said McDowell, who feels he can "freewheel" in Europe and forget about his struggle to keep his PGA Tour card.

"This is where I grew up and this is where the most familiar golf is for me, where I've won twice and I feel very, very comfortable."

He knows he can catch Bjorn's eye and land one of three exemptions for The Open if he wins in Europe for the first time since he claimed back-to-back Open de France titles in 2014.

"Obviously I would love to post a big finish this week and try to get myself back on the edge of that radar," he said, admitting that confidence has been "the missing X-factor" in his game.

"It's going to take some golf for me over the summer to be back on the radar, but if I could be on the edge of the radar somewhere, that would be nice. I still have an ambition to play on the team."

Shane Lowry bogeyed the 18th but shot an excellent, one-under 70 to share seventh with the likes of American World No 2 Justin Thomas as Paul Dunne battled to a 74 to sit just inside the cut line alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton.

McDowell relishes the challenge of narrow fairways, punishing rough and myriad water hazards that keep players on permanent red alert.

"Very pleased, especially the way I played the first kind of dozen holes," he said after mixing seven birdies with four bogeys, two of them three-putts from 12 and 15 feet.

"Having been coming here for years and having some success here, I do stand on some of these tee boxes and feel a level of comfort."

He took advantage a benign first hour, picking up shots at the 11th, 12th and 15th before being forced to dig deep in a tricky crosswind.

After sandwiching another birdie at the 17th between a brace of three-putt bogeys at the 16th and first, he hit back with two more birdies at the second and third, then bogeyed the fourth before hitting an eight-iron to 15 feet to save a miraculous par at the fifth after tangling with heavy rough.

Meanwhile at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, Power birdied the 10th, 14th and 18th to go out in a flawless 32 before following eight pars with a birdie two from eight feet at the ninth for his 66, to sit three shots behind Landry and Spaun.

Tiger Woods' made two birdies in his last five holes to post a level par 70 but despite being 95th for strokes-gained, he refused to blame his switch to a TaylorMade putter .

"I rolled it well today, I really did," Woods said. "I misread a couple on the back nine but overall I hit a lot of good putts. It was nice to feel that and nice to feel the putter swing again."

Woods won't be at next week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in Ballyliffin but Gavin Moynihan, Paul McGinley, Ruaidhri McGee and Cormac Sharvin will be there after getting invitations yesterday.

On the Challenge Tour, Ballymena's Dermot McElroy fired a six-under 65 to lie just a shot behind Joachim B. Hansen and Mark Flindt Haastrup in the Made in Denmark Challenge where Jonny Caldwell (69) is tied 21st and Michael Hoey (71) joint 43rd.

Open de France

Live, Sky Sports, 9.30am

Quicken Loans National

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 8.0pm

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