Sport Golf

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Sublime G-Mac tames 'brutal' Blue Monster

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland

William S Callahan

WHEN carnage reigns, as it did at Doral yesterday, Graeme McDowell is your only man.

As the vast majority of the elite 68-man field at the Cadillac World Golf Championship were blown off course by a wicked westerly wind, G-Mac played as if it was just another blowy day on his beloved home links at Royal Portrush.

It was awe-inspiring to see how McDowell rose to the challenge of playing the vastly remodelled Blue Monster, which was enormously intimidating in breezes gusting well over 25 mph.

The 34-year-old Ulsterman plotted a canny route around Doral to a one-under 71, which left him at even-par after 36 holes, level with Francesco Molinari and one shy of early clubhouse leader Patrick Reed.

Very few others managed to break par on a day in which 23-year-old Texan Reed and Italian Molinari both appeared satisfied to escape with three-over par 75s.

So tough were playing conditions that the world's leading professionals hit more than six dozen balls into the water hazards which abound on the course. Meanwhile, the average round score was approaching 77.

This was a tough as any Major Championship and then some ... just what the doctor ordered for McDowell.

Beggared by troubling swing thoughts at Honda last weekend and a tad untidy as he posted a one-over-par 73 in Thursday's first round, G-Mac forgot it all yesterday as he gleefully picked up the gauntlet.

"I'm really happy with the way I controlled my golf ball today," he said. "Let's be honest, it's brutal out there. I can't remember playing in conditions this difficult this side of the pond. It was like a British Open.

"This golf course is new and it's firm, so this was always going to be a danger.

"You can't fault the course, the way it has been put together over the past 12 months or the set-up.

"They've done an amazing job and, let's be honest, this breeze would have made last year's course difficult as well," he explained, laughing out loud as he added: "I'm just very happy to be done for the day. Now I'll put my feet up and watch how the other guys handle it."

McDowell's rock-solid round featured two birdies, at 12, his third, and two, where he also holed out from 11 feet. The solitary blot was a bogey at six, where he hit his tee shot left into the long grass, found the greenside rough with his approach and took two to extricate himself.

Tiger Woods, no longer troubled by back problems but still blowing cobwebs off his game, followed up his first-round 76 with a fighting 73.

Incredibly, Phil Mickelson made three successive double-bogeys on the second, third and fourth holes but immediately rebounded with back-to-back birdies and landed a couple more on 10 and 12.

Playing with Mickelson, Rory McIlroy was just two strokes off the lead after rounding off his first-round 70 yesterday. However, he played the first seven holes of his second round in four-over, making double-bogey at seven after his approach rolled down the shaved slope by the green and into water.

Still, the 24-year-old hung in gamely and was back to two-over through 16 and well in contention on even-par for the tournament with two holes remaining.



Irish Independent

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