McDowell scores perfect 10

GRAEME MCDOWELL charged to the top of the leaderboard in the Dunhill Links Championship by equalling the course record of 62 at St Andrews yesterday.

The Irishman went agonisingly close with a putt at 18th to take that honour himself but a par saw him equal the 10-under par mark set by Brian Davis last season.

The 25-year-old has been in the hunt for many titles on the European tour this year and he grabbed 10 birdies to storm to the top of the leaderboard.

The Volvo Scandinavian Masters winner of 2002 and Italian Open victor in 2004 relished the dry and blustery conditions at the old course and lived up to his growing reputation.

The triumphant former Walker Cup player was nine shots ahead of defending champion Lee Westwood, who carded a one-under-par 71 to just stay in the hunt.

McDowell was overjoyed with his round, especially in light of the challenging conditions, and admitted that he would look back fondly on his performance in years to come.

“I missed a putt at the last which would have been the outright record but I can’t have many complaints,” said the Northern Irishman.

“I played some great shots and 10-under today was great because it was quite tough out there at times.

“I made sure I went out and did well and hung in there when the conditions were difficult because it wasn’t easy out there.

“It’s very relaxed and it’s not as intense as a normal tournament, and I guess some people play better with that and I will certainly remember this one.”

Padraig Harrington slipped well off the leaderboard in dramatic fashion with a bogey five at the 17th followed by triple-bogey seven at the 18th, meaning he finished on one under par, alongside Westwood.

South African Retief Goosen was three shots behind McDowell, having picked up seven birdies at Kingsbarns.

Countryman Ernie Els was well placed on four-under after the world number two carded a 68 on the same course, which was the same score as number one Vijay Singh.

The Fijian said: “It was hard to get close and attack here but it is three different courses and I won’t look at the others until I have played all three.

“I am happy with my score but the guy who shot a 10-under-par must be out of this world or out of his mind.

“That is fantastic but I am happy with my score.”

Els is looking to overtake Europe’s Ryder Cup hero Colin Montgomerie and become the biggest money-earner in European Tour history.

Winning the American Express World Golf Championship title at Mount Juliet on Sunday took his total earnings to €21.3m in 14 seasons.

For that to happen he would need the Scot to finish down the pecking order - but Europe’s Ryder Cup hero was also in the hunt after carding the same score of 68.

Montgomerie said: “It wasn’t a bad score and I enjoyed myself but I have got to get going tomorrow and see where that leaves me.”

There was further good fortune for McDowell as he and Noreen McManus, wife of JP, were also sharing the lead in the team standings at 11-under, with Richard Sterne and football legend Kenny Dalglish.

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