McDowell firmly in the frame after a splendid 67

Sat, Mar 9, 2013, 00:00

Golf WGC-Cadillac Championship: Graeme McDowell is licking his lips at the prospect of a third round “party” with Tiger Woods after a brilliant driving and putting display in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral’s TPC Blue Monster.

The Ulsterman missed just two fairways as he carded a rock solid 67 to grab the clubhouse lead on 11 under par, denying Phil Mickelson a date old enemy Woods as a rusty Rory McIlroy showed signs of improvement in his game.

As Woods made seven birdies and a bogey in his first 14 holes to grab the tournament lead on 12 under, a controlled McDowell serenely cruised around the Blue Monster to remain as the only player in the 65-man field without a bogey.

Delighted to birdie the last two holes and secure a date with Woods in today’s final two-ball, McDowell said: “I saw Phil sneaking up the leaderboard there behind me and I said to Kenny, let’s spoil this party tomorrow.

“I’m sure they would have liked Tiger and Phil in the last group tomorrow, would have been great for the tournament, but I certainly will enjoy the position of being in the last group and the mix. That’s right where I want to be.”

McDowell he won’t be intimidated in the least today after an impressive start to his season so far.

Quite calm

“I have to say I’m generally feeling quite calm and patient inside, McDowell said. I don’t feel like I’m trying to force the issue too much.”

Mickelson needed to shoot a 66 to seal a final round pairing with Woods but a 67 left tied for third with Steve Stricker on 10 under par.

The Ulsterman began the day tied for the lead with Woods, Freddie Jacobson, Sergio Garcia and Masters winner Bubba Watson on six under thanks to an immaculate 66. And he continued to play rock solid golf on another warm day in Miami, closing with his fifth birdie of the day from just three feet at the 160-yard ninth to lead set the pace

Starting on the 10th, the world parred first seven holes before finally holing a five footer for birdie at the 17th to top the leaderboard on seven under.

He then got up and down from greenside sand at the par-five first, holing a 12-footer to remain near the head of affairs and live up to his ‘big brother’ role to the rusty McIlroy.

The 2010 US Open winner has worked hard on his short game over the winter months with special emphasis on his bunker play and putting.

But while he was delighted to take just 26 putts for the second day running, it was his driving that pleased him most.

“I drove it great today,” McDowell said. “Probably the best I’ve driven it this season.”

Having negotiated the tough third and fourth holes in par, McDowell played to his strengths at the fifth, firing a 120-yard approach to eight feet and rolling in the putt to remain tied for second with later starter Mickelson, who eventually shot a 67 to finish on 10 under alongside Steve Stricker, who also shot 67.

McDowell , missed an eight-foot chance at the seventh but got up and down from a bunker for birdie at the par-five eighth, sneaking a 10 footer in the side door.

He then finished in style, firing a brilliant tee shot inside three feet at the ninth to set up a closing birdie two.

Pádraig Harrington remained near the back of the field on four over par as he made two birdies and two bogeys in a second round 72.

The improving McIlroy followed a birdie at the par-five first with bogeys at the fourth and sixth but he picked up birdies at the par-five eighth, 10th and 12th and another from six feet at the 14th to move in the middle of the pack on two under.

Doral leaderboard

(US unless stated, Irish in bold)

-13 Tiger Woods (35 holes)

-11 Graeme McDowell (36)

-10 Phil Mickelson (36)

Steve Stricker (36)

-9 Bubba Watson (36)

-8 Charl Schwartzel (35)

Keegan Bradley (35)

- 3 Rory McIlroy (35)

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