Monday 23 April 2018

Off-colour McDowell loses head as 'stupid' errors take their toll

Karl MacGinty

WITH heads rolling down its fairways and barbed tweets zipping back and forth through the airwaves, there certainly was no shortage of colourful rhetoric at the Dubai World Championship.

Graeme McDowell was the unfortunate individual whose head 'came off' as a second-round 73 left him eight strokes behind his rival in the Race to Dubai, Martin Kaymer, and needing a miracle to overhaul the German.

Playing in a stamina-sapping fifth successive tournament, McDowell's patience snapped after a couple of "simple, stupid mistakes" mid-round yesterday.

Desperate situations sometimes require double measures and McDowell vowed to "give it a real good rattle" last night in an effort to ease his frustrations. "I'm so switched on and trying so desperately, I need to chill out, maybe have a few beers," he said.

McDowell needs a weekend of Celtic Manor proportions to bridge the €290,911 gap between himself and Order of Merit leader Kaymer with just 36 holes of the season left.


The closing rounds of 64 and 63 which propelled him to victory in last June's Welsh Open might usually inspire confidence in his prospects; however, the Earth Course and Celtic Manor could not be more different.

Especially from McDowell's perspective as, for the second year in succession, he struggles to make any headway whatsoever on the Greg Norman-designed course.

"I find this golf course quite difficult. The second I get out of position, I find it tough to scramble and I'm not putting the greens very well -- I find them very tough and grainy to read.

"I'd three three-putts yesterday and made simple, stupid mistakes today," added McDowell, who imploded when three birdies in his first seven holes were followed by two slipshod bogeys from mid-fairway on eight and nine.

"When I look at the leaderboard now, it's clear I wasn't that far out of contention. I really should have stayed a little more patient, but I let the head come spinning off."

After falling five shots behind the meticulous Kaymer as he ground out a level-par 72 on Thursday, McDowell had to grin and bear it once again yesterday as Alvaro Quiros appeared to pick up birdies at will on greens which thoroughly confounded the US Open champ.

"Alvaro played fantastic and right about the time my head was rolling down the ninth fairway, he strung together three birdies in the space of four holes," McDowell said.

A second-round 70 sent Kaymer soaring to fourth on seven-under, two shy of joint leaders Ross Fisher (64 to equal the course record) and Ian Poulter (66), and just one behind defending champion Lee Westwood (67).

With McDowell effectively out of the picture, the German now can concentrate fully on winning the tournament. Victory would clinch a €2m-plus jackpot for Kaymer and could even propel him to the top of the world rankings if Westwood finishes outside the top two.

Yet Westwood and Poulter truly looked like men on a mission as they bounced off each other yesterday with as much gusto as they'd shown on the internet in recent days following the world No 1's decision to join the ever-increasing band of elite professional golfers on Twitter.

Even Padraig Harrington will start tweeting soon. "I actually thought I'd have started by now," the Dubliner said, before joking: "All pro golfers have an ego and think they're worth listening to."

Westwood once replied "over my dead body" when asked if he'd ever tweet, but he's been prolific this week, with Rory McIlroy feeling the sting of his sharp wit.

On his first tweet to McIlroy, Westwood took the youngster to task over the grey colour of his locks. "I'm just pleased I wasn't stood next to you when that flock of seagulls flew over," he quipped.

Darren Clarke (71) was best of the Irish in a tie for 20th on two-under. A bogey six at the last failed to dampen Peter Lawrie's enthusiasm as his second-round 67 lifted the Dubliner into a share of 25th on one-under with McIlroy.

Harrington, like Clarke, McDowell and McIlroy, struggled to read the line and pace of the greens as a 70 left him tied-30th with Gareth Maybin (71) on level par.

As dusk fell, McDowell sent an invite to McIlroy on golf's new grapevine. "Bounce over brother. Cold beer waiting!" he tweeted. "Would love to join u mate!" came the reply.

Dubai World Championship,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 8.0am

Irish Independent

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