Friday 23 March 2018

Roller-coaster ride for McIlroy

Holywood star stays in hunt as McDowell drives into trouble

Bernie McGuire in Akron, Ohio

Rory McIlroy enjoyed a roller-coaster ride, while Graeme McDowell nosedived out of contention with an erratic driving display on day two of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

Mcllroy signed for a card showing four birdies and three bogeys in a one-under-par 69 for a three-under-par tally around the Firestone course. It left the present world No 8 lying just four strokes behind South African Retief Goosen, who carded a 66 to lead by one stroke on seven-under par.

The American duo of Justin Leonard (66) and Phil Mickelson (69) are next best on six-under par.

With Tiger Woods slumping to 71st place in the now 80-player field, Mickelson will become the new world No 1 by capturing the $8.5m tournament or finishing at worst fourth and not have Woods placed any higher than 38th.


Fourteen-time Major winner Woods carded birdies on the 15th, sixth and ninth, but five bogeys sabotaged his round to leave him on six-over par for the tournament and left his 270-week reign as world No1 hanging by a thread.

The withdrawal through injury of world No 3 Lee Westwood has also boosted Mickelson's hopes of moving to top of the rankings. Westwood hinted that his participation in the Ryder Cup in October could be in doubt due to the ruptured plantaris muscle in his right calf.

"I will be out for as long as it takes to get right," Westwood told reporters after a second-round 76 left him seven-over par at Firestone.

"Hopefully it will be in time for the Ryder Cup."

Westwood suffered the injury at the end of June but still managed to finish a distant second behind Louis Oosthuizen in the Open at St Andrews.

McDowell let slip his share of second place with five bogeys and just two birdies in his 73.

A day earlier, the current US Open champion had finished with four straight birdies, but McDowell ended day two with a pair of bogeys.

"I was very sloppy and just missed too many fairways and just put myself a little bit out of position," said McDowell.

"I wasn't missing them by much but just sort of a few yards here and there, just making it difficult to make birdies.

"I also didn't scramble very well and I also putted like an idiot.

"So it's bit disappointing to shoot a 73 as I had it going around the turn and just finished badly."

McDowell played the first two rounds in the company of Padraig Harrington and they could not be separated, with Harrington adding a 70 to finish tied with his fellow Major champion.

Harrington started his round by holing a two-footer for birdie at his second hole but the golf course jumped up and bit the Dubliner at his 10th hole (1st) when he found the rough with his drive before coming up 83 feet short with his second.

He then chipped to 22 feet but proceeded to three-putt for a double-bogey six.

However, after getting a free drop from a cart path at his next hole, Harrington delighted in firing a 40-yard bunker shot to just two feet and knocking in only the second birdie of his round.

Then, as he had done over his outward nine, Harrington parred his closing seven holes.

"It was one hole that hurt me out there today and I just hit a terrible tee shot at the 12th or my third," said Harrington.

"But my hydration was okay today because I definitely struggled with that big time yesterday."

However, in an uncharacteristic confession, the world No 15 admitted he has been distracted by thoughts of competing in next week's US PGA Championship.

"I am a bit stuck in next week at the moment and I'm thinking about next week rather than this week, and it happens as some weeks you do that, some weeks you don't," he said.

But Harrington said there was no urgency relative to the last Major of the season, and the fact his last success was in the 2008 US PGA.

"Well, if there was a sense of urgency about next week I'd be tapering down now but I am doing the opposite," he said.

"I am just working away at my game and know I need to do a better job on Monday because it was a little frustrating out there. But such is life. I've got a Major next week."

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational,

Live, Sky Sport 3, 5.0pm

Irish Independent

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