Graeme McDowell admits he needs to ‘clear his mind’ after 78

French Open defence lasts just two days in Paris as he vows to battle to get his game back

Graeme McDowell: “I have a lot of technique in my head to be honest and I have to strip that out; I’ve got to get back to basics and try to clear the mind.” Photograph: Getty

Graeme McDowell: “I have a lot of technique in my head to be honest and I have to strip that out; I’ve got to get back to basics and try to clear the mind.” Photograph: Getty

 

Graeme McDowell admitted he needs to “clear his mind” after his bid for a third successive French Open title came to an ignominious early end.

McDowell was one of 42 players unable to complete their opening rounds on schedule at Le Golf National after thunderstorms on Thursday resulted in a delay of almost two-and-a-half hours.

The former US Open champion had just one hole remaining when play resumed at 7.30 local time on Friday and made par on the 18th to complete an opening 72 and lie just four shots off the lead.

However, after a short break McDowell was back out on the course which will stage the 2018 Ryder Cup and slumped to a second round of 78, his worst score in 32 rounds at the venue.

“I struggled to get on the fairway mainly and, as firm and as fast as this course is, if you’re not hitting the fairway you have a bit of a problem getting close to the flag,” said McDowell, whose sole top-10 finish on the European Tour this season came in the Dubai Desert Classic on February 1st.

“It’s just a bad first nine both days. I rescued it coming in last night but it was a fast turnaround from a 9pm finish last night to an early start this morning and I just didn’t come out of the blocks this morning at all.

“It’s very disappointing, this course has been so good to me over the years, just not to be this year. It’s a work in progress, I’ll keep grinding and it’s a big summer ahead.”

McDowell, who missed the cut on eight over par after a round containing two double bogeys, three bogeys and no birdies, added: “I have a lot of technique in my head to be honest and I have to strip that out; I’ve got to get back to basics and try to clear the mind.

“I’ve been working too hard on trying to get the technique fixed and been making it worse. I know it’s in there; you take the rough with the smooth and it’s been a great three or four years. I will dig this out and I’ll be back.”

At the other end of the leaderboard, McDowell’s Ryder Cup partner Victor Dubuisson – the pair won both of their foursomes matches together at Gleneagles – shared the halfway lead with Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello on four under par.

Home favourite Dubuisson held a two-shot lead when he followed a birdie on the fifth by holing his approach to the next from 107 yards for an eagle, but carded three bogeys and one birdie in the last 11 holes in a round of 70.

“There were two shots I hit on eight and nine that finished in a bad spot and made bogeys there and on this course it can turn really bad, but I made a great par on 10 and nice birdie on 12 and I’m very happy with how I played today,” said Dubuisson.

“I’m very excited about the weekend but on this course you can easily make mistakes so I will have to play well again tomorrow.”

Former champion Kaymer, who missed the cut in defence of his US Open title at Chambers Bay, found water with his approach to the 15th to card a double bogey, but recovered in style with his fourth birdie of the day on the 18th to return a second consecutive 69.

Cabrera-Bello has finished finished fourth, 13th, second and 11th in his last four events, but bogeyed the 72nd hole in the Irish Open to miss out on a play-off and shot rounds of 74 and 71 after taking the halfway lead in Munich last week.

The 31-year-old said: “Obviously some things have been going wrong because my scoring during the first two days compared to Sunday is not quite the same. But I’m working on that, so I’m going to keep knocking on the door and one day, it will open.”

English trio Tyrrell Hatton, James Morrison and Daniel Brooks were a shot off the lead alongside Francesco Molinari and Jaco van Zyl, with Brooks carding a 66 that is the lowest of the week so far by two shots.

Italy’s Renato Paratore finished alongside McDowell on eight over par, but claimed a place in the record books with 18 fours in his second round of 72 – three birdies, four bogeys and 11 pars. It is understood to be the first time that has happened in European Tour history.

Damien McGrane is five shots off the lead going into the weekend after a one-under 70 left him on one over. Michael Hoey will also be in action at the weekend after his 73 left him on three over .

Paul McGinley (73 for +7), Peter Lawrie (73 for +8) and Darren Clarke (79 for +12) joined McDowell in missing the cut.

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