McDowell is the halfway leader in Shanghai

The Irishman carded a second 67 to keep him ahead of England’s Ian Poulter

Ireland’s Graeme McDowell continued to set the pace on the second day of the £5.4milllion WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai on Friday.

McDowell, who won all three of his matches in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory at Gleneagles in September, carded a second successive 67 to post a 10-under 134 halfway total on an overcast day at Sheshan.

And the former US Open champion remained out in front thanks to three birdies in his first eight holes taking him to eight under par, three ahead of double Masters champion Bubba Watson, South African Tim Clark and Sweden's Jonas Blixt.

Shane Lowry, meanwhile, had an almost disastrous opening round of 78 but pulled nine shots back with a second round 69. Lowry is bunched with a goup of players well down the field on 147.


For the second day running McDowell birdied the second and third, but also picked up a shot on the 603-yard par-five eighth — a hole where he carded one of his two bogeys on Thursday after what he described as “a comedy of errors”.

World number two Adam Scott was certainly not laughing about that hole after running up a quadruple-bogey nine, the Australian's wild drive into the trees ending in an unplayable position and his fifth shot finding a hazard in front of the green.

A run of four birdies in his first six holes had seen Scott close to within a shot of McDowell, but he found more water on the ninth to card a double bogey and a bogey on the 11th dropped him nine shots off the pace.

Watson briefly closed the gap to two shots thanks to a brilliant finish, the left-hander completing a 67 with five birdies in succession which included using his three wood to “chip” in from the fringe on the 17th after a more orthodox chip in on the previous hole.

Blixt had also moved to six under with a birdie on the sixth — his 15th hole — but McDowell responded immediately with a birdie from 18 feet on the par-five 14th to move to nine under.

Watson's brilliant finish was almost matched by England's Ian Poulter, who surged up the leaderboard with four birdies in the last five holes. That took Poulter, who finished runner-up to American Dustin Johnson last year, into second place on seven under par, three shots behind McDowell who parred the last three holes to card a second consecutive 67.

“I got lucky a couple of times today,” he said.

. American Bubba Watson also carded 67, while Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata (65) had the best round of the day to join the American on six-under in tied third. McDowell and Poulter, third and second here last year, both have an affinity for Sheshan.

McDowell said his short game and putting allowed him to avoid any bogeys and increase his lead.

“My putter is in good form and the greens are fantastic and when I did have opportunities, I managed to make some,” he said.

“It was not my best ball striking round but I hung in and I’m right where I want to be going into the weekend.

Poulter, last year’s runner-up, was in a jovial mood after his fast finish. “It was probably the best I’ve played all year, which was very exciting,” he said.

“It was a little frustrating the first 13 holes that I was missing chances, but the chances started going in at the end and I’m very happy.”

World number two Adam Scott was not so happy after two consecutive disastrous holes in his second round of 72. He reeled off four early birdies to move into second place, only to run up a quadruple bogey at the par-five eighth where he found two separate hazards, one with his tee shot and another adjacent to the green.

Things went from bad to worse when he found another hazard with his approach shot at the ninth. “I hit it in water three times in two holes and had to try and move on and did the best I could,” the Australian said after fighting back to end the day eight strokes behind McDowell. “I’m playing good enough to be leading the tournament. I’m playing great. I’ve just got to have a couple of good days and I’ll be right there on Sunday.”

McDowell, who has yet to win one of the WGC events and told Sky Sports 4: “It would be very special. The WGC’s are a special tier of events, there’s no doubt about that and this has always been one I had my eye on. This one and Doral (venue for the WGC-Cadillac Championship) are the two golf courses I feel I perform well on.

“But this is a world-class field. They are bunching up behind me and I have to get out there tomorrow and keep the pedal down and position myself for Sunday and give myself a sniff on the back nine.”

Asked to explain his remarkable scoring at Sheshan, McDowell added: “I think it’s the fact you don’t have to hit it a long way, you have to be accurate and I like these greens. I read them well here, this course is always so well presented and I just enjoy playing it.

“I didn’t play as well as I did yesterday. I missed a lot more fairways, which is a big key on this golf course. You must find fairways to have a chance out there. I got lucky a couple of times and I made some good saves.

“It wasn’t my best ball-striking round but I hung in there and I’m right where I want to be going into the weekend.”