Friday 15 December 2017

Graeme McDowell's Irish Open dream fading fast

Graeme McDowell in action at Carton House
Graeme McDowell in action at Carton House

Phil Casey

Graeme McDowell's wish to tick an Irish Open victory off his golfing bucket list turned into a battle simply to make the halfway cut as former Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal rolled back the years today.

McDowell added a second round of 74 to his opening 71 at Carton House to finish one over par, 10 shots behind clubhouse leaders Robert Rock and Peter Uihlein and eight adrift of his 'Miracle at Medinah' skipper Olazabal.

That was one shot outside the predicted cut when he finished and left the former US Open champion hoping for a continuation of the windy conditions this afternoon to avoid a sixth missed cut in 12 appearances in the event.

Two of his previous early exits came when Carton House last hosted the tournament in 2005 and 2006, but McDowell at least gave himself a fighting chance with what could be a crucial birdie on the ninth, his final hole.

"I was pretty aware that I had to make that putt," the 33-year-old said.

"I desperately want that cut to come back to one over and be here for the weekend.

"It's been a slow couple of days; I've played average and putted worse. I see nine under on the leaderboard and I wonder how around this course, it's phenomenal scoring. I'm shocked how good the scoring is."

American Uihlein, who won his maiden European Tour title in Madeira last month, added a 68 to his opening 67 to set the clubhouse target that was quickly matched by Rock in the group behind.

Rock, who lost a play-off to Shane Lowry at Baltray in 2009 but claimed the winner's cheque for 500,000 euros as Lowry was an amateur at the time, carded four birdies and an eagle from just four feet on the par-five fourth to return a flawless 66.

Olazabal completed a 69 to finish seven under and insisted he had never given up hope of winning tournaments again despite his health problems and the demands of being Ryder Cup captain.

The 47-year-old won the Irish Open back in 1990 and has not tasted victory on the European Tour since 2005, but is adamant he is not simply ticking over until becoming eligible for the seniors tour when he turns 50.

"The captaincy took a lot out of me, I could not dedicate as much time to my game, but now it's over I can spend time on the range working on my game," said Olazabal, who has the calloused hands to prove it.

"I have never lost hope, that's why I spend hours and hours on the range. Health-wise I have had problems but at the moment I cannot complain. It's going to be hard for me to remember the last time I won a tournament, but the main goal is to keep improving my game to get myself in positions like this."

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