Irish contingent hitting a hot streak in Spain

THERE is a delightfully green hue to the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, with the final match in today’s third round involving Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Gareth Maybin.

While McDowell is now a familiar figure after his famous victory in the US Open Championship, his win in the Wales Open and his exploits in the Ryder Cup, Maybin is a relative unknown.

McDowell carries a two shot lead into the weekend, standing seven under for the 36 holes and 11 clear of playing partner Martin Kaymer, who barely scraped into the weekend activities on four over.

Accordingly, McDowell could make serious inroads into the German’s near million point advantage at the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai order of merit.

Maybin, who has dropped only one stroke over the 36 holes, stands at five under par following rounds of 69 and 68.

It is Maybin’s first viewing of the course that hosted the 1997 Ryder Cup and he has used the experience of his caddie, Dubliner Darren Reynolds, to help him cope with its many challenges. Reynolds caddied for Paul McGinley when he captured the Volvo Masters here in 2005. Damien McGrane, who was tied second overnight with McDowell after a 68 on Thursday, struggled on the greens but wasn’t too unhappy with a 73 that left him inside the top 10 on one under over all.

Also safely into the weekend hopeful of picking up the points to get from 63rd back into the top 60 who qualify for the lucrative, season-ending Race to Dubai is Shane Lowry.

The amateur winner of the 2009 3 Irish Open has survived the cut in his last four tournaments but hasn’t finished better than 50th in any of them. He was right on the cut mark when four over after 16 but put in a grandstand finish with birdies at the 17th and at the 18th.

Michael Hoey added a 71 to Thursday’s 69 to stand on even par while Darren Clarke finished on the same mark thanks to two closing birdies. Peter Lawrie made it in on the cut off mark of four over leaving Paul McGinley as the only one of the eight Irish to miss out.


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