McDowell shows a welcome return to form in Paris

Northern Irish golfer targets French Open title to end poor run

 Graeme McDowell tees off at the 14th during the second round of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris, France. Photograph:  Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Graeme McDowell tees off at the 14th during the second round of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris, France. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

 

Graeme McDowell has turned his attention from simply making the cut to winning his third title of the year in the Alstom Open de France.

McDowell arrived in Paris having missed the cut in five of his last six strokeplay events, although he did win the RBC Heritage and the Volvo World Match Play Championship in that time and insisted there was no need to push the panic button.

The former US Open champion stayed on to practice at Carton House after his early exit from the Irish Open last weekend and looked to have reaped the rewards after a second consecutive 69 at Le Golf National left him just two shots behind halfway leader Fabrizio Zanotti.

“I’m playing this golf course the way it’s supposed to be played, fairways and greens,” said McDowell. “Once you start hitting it off line it will punish you.

“I just have not got the putter revved up but I am well in touch and right where I need to be. It’s been a rough couple of months for me, I’ve not been playing the kind of golf I’d like to and the key to this week was to come and get myself in the mix for the weekend and get some of the juices flowing again.

“I’m excited for the weekend and to make a cut really. It feels like a step in the right direction.

“I certainly know what to do when I put myself in these positions, I just have not had the opportunity to do it lately. I’m probably on one of my worst missed cut runs in a while. It’s nice to break that first and foremost and be on the leaderboard.”

Paraguay’s Zanotti completed a second consecutive 68 to set the pace on six under, one ahead of Danish duo Thomas Bjorn and Soren Kjeldsen and South African Richard Sterne.

Bjorn had been seven under with two holes of his second round to play but bogeyed the eighth after his tee shot plugged in a greenside bunker and then three-putted the par-five ninth to return a frustrating 69.

McDowell shared fifth place on four under with England’s Simon Dyson and Graeme Storm – the 2007 champion – and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, while Ryder Cup team-mates Luke Donald and Ian Poulter finished two over and world number five Matt Kuchar three over to make the cut.

Dyson had missed his last three cuts in a row and for the last four years in succession in the event, but added a flawless 68 to his opening 70.

“I’ve not been scoring at all, not been my usual self,” Dyson said. “I’ve been trying to keep it simple on the course and concentrating on one shot at a time because I never do well on this course.

“I came here with not great expectations having just missed three cuts in a row and I played the last two days the best golf I’ve played all year. It’s amazing what it can throw up and from coming here on Wednesday morning not really looking forward to playing it, I’m really looking forward to the weekend now.”

Overnight leader Anders Hansen could only add a 78 to his opening 66 to drop back into a tie for 44th with Donald and Poulter on two over.

Gareth Shaw earned an invite to Paris after his strong finish at the Irish Open and the Northern Irish golfer carded six birdies in a 69 that saw him move to one under and a tie for 17th position.

Damien McGrane is a shot behind on level after a 72, while Michael Hoey is one over after a 74.

Gareth Maybin is on two over after a 73 and Alan Dunbar made the weekend action on the cut mark of three over after a 75.

Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (74), Peter Lawrie (75) and Simon Thornton (75) all missed the cut.