Graeme McDowell: It’s absolutely still winnable

Graeme McDowell will tee up for his third round at Royal County Down this morning eight shots behind the leaders but convinced the Irish Open title is within his grasp.

McDowell shot a second-round, four-over-par 75 yesterday to just make the halfway cut on five over par after 36 holes alongside fellow major winner and Tyrone’s Darren Clarke, who carded a 72. Yet the 2010 US Open champion, who gets under way in the third group of the day at 8:15am, insisted: “It’s absolutely still winnable.

“I’ll need a bit of fortune with the weather, and I’ll need conditions in the morning to go out and go low and for the wind to get up for the leaders in the afternoon. but anything is possible from here.”

McDowell had shot an opening one-over 72 on Thursday and looked comfortable to make the weekend as he turrned in a level-par 36, only to card four bogeys between the 11th and 15th holes as his recent putting woes continued, at least until a birdie at the last saved the day.

“Things were getting a bit away from me in the back nine. I hit probably one of my best short irons of the day on 11 over the back and didn’t get it up and down and three-putted the par five from just short for a par. And I three-putted the next and kind of started to get a little frustrated with myself and couldn’t get it going.

“It’s a tough golf course in really, really tough conditions and more important for me to get into the weekend. I need as many rounds under my belt as I can right now because I feel like I’m turning the corner.

“I just need to keep testing myself. And of course it’s the Irish Open. I wouldn’t want to be sitting home this weekend.”

Nor does 2016 Ryder Cup captain Clarke, who endured fortunes with his game as contrasting as some of yesterday’s weather as he battled his putter.

“I had both extremes going on today,” he said. “The ball-striking was probably right up there with one of the best rounds that I’ve ever played and my putting was right up there with one of the worst that I’ve ever done. I kept giving myself chances and chances, hardly missed a green. It was nice to have a better score than yesterday but with the way I hit it, it should have been a lot better today.

“I have to go to the putting green and try to figure something out, some method to hole a few putts. Certainly a big difference from today to yesterday. Just got to keep on striking the ball like that, figure out the putting, because the game is very, very close.”

Other Irishmen joining Clarke and McDowell for the weekend are invitee from Royal County Down Simon Thornton, who also finished on five over, following a nerve-jangling 76 that included a triple-bogey seven at the second, his 11th hole of the day.

There was less trouble for 2014 Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley, who reached the third round courtesy of two-over 73 yesterday that leaves him on three over.

There was hard luck, though for Kevin Phelan, whose 74 sent him one shot outside the cutline at six over, the Mount Juliet-attached Waterford man homeward bound along with Michael Hoey, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Reeve Whitson.

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