McDowell aiming for third win of the season in Paris

Irishman shares lead with Richard Sterne after third round

 Graeme McDowell plays into the 15th green during the third round of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National  in Paris, France. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell plays into the 15th green during the third round of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris, France. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

 

Graeme McDowell, who has either won or missed the cut in each of his last seven events, has the chance to maintain that odd streak in the final round of the Alstom Open de France tomorrow.

McDowell carded a third round of 70 at Le Golf National outside Paris to finish five under par and share the lead with South Africa’s Richard Sterne as the 2018 Ryder Cup venue again proved a tough proposition.

England’s David Howell, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and Australian Richard Green are a shot behind, with Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn only three off the lead despite hitting two tee shots on par threes into water and covering the back nine in 40 in a round of 74.

Only 18 players finished the third round under par and, asked about about the prospect of securing a third win of the season on the closing stretch tomorrow, McDowell said: “I hadn’t really thought about it but thanks for pointing that out!

“I hope I have the opportunity. It’s going to be phenomenal come 2018. The last four holes are as dramatic a risk-reward finish as you could imagine with a combination of a natural amphitheatre.

“The 15th and 18th are two phenomenal holes, especially the pin position on 15 today. When the caddie in the group in front put the pin back in the hole on 15 I thought he’d missed the green with it. It looked like it was in the water.”

McDowell, who won the RBC Heritage the week after missing the cut in The Masters and also claimed the Volvo World Match Play Championship in May, added: “I played very nicely today and continued on from where I left off on Thursday and Friday.

“This course demands fairways and greens; most courses do but this one even more so. Shots off line here get punished heavily. The greens are very firm. I described it earlier this week as a Scottish or Irish links meets the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

“It’s got the risk-reward with the water and it’s fast and firm like a links course. It’s a great combination.”

McDowell, who stayed on at Carton House to practice – along with compatriot Rory McIlroy – after missing the cut in last week’s Irish Open, added: “It’s been a rough couple of months, a few weekends off to contemplate what’s going on, but it’s done nothing but motivate me to work harder and harder and be more hungry for days like tomorrow so I will be excited and looking forward to it.”

Sterne recovered from a double-bogey six at the fifth – where he chipped from one side of the green off the other into a bunker – to card a 71 and said: “I’m very pleased with 71 in the end. This course can bite you in a lot of places and the finish here is probably the toughest on the tour.”

The leading total of five under is the same posted by Anders Hansen after the opening day and Sterne added: “This golf course tends to do that. Guys don’t keep on going low.

“There are a lot of guys bunched up. Someone can come from further back but hopefully I get off to a good start again tomorrow and keep it going.”

Howell’s 69 was one of the better scores of the day but the former Ryder Cup star admitted it was hard work as he looks to claim a first European Tour title since 2006.

“It was not that pretty to be honest today, I could not have got much more out of that round,” Howell said. “I dodged a few bullets and did not feel particularly comfortable so I’m delighted to get round in 69.”

The 38-year-old might feel even more uncomfortable later this year with the news that wife Emily is expecting twins in December, adding: “It’s very daunting. That was a shock to the system a couple of weeks ago.

“We are tired already with one, we are going to be so tired aren’t we with three.”

Gareth Maybin shot a level-par third round of 71 to finish on two over, the same mark as Gareth Shaw, who carded a 74. Damien McGrane (74), Alan Dunbar (72) and Michael Hoey (74) are all on three over.