Graeme McDowell Catches Fire At Sherwood

By Les Bailey
Graeme McDowell
Bruce Chapman-US PRESSWIRE

On a very soggy Sherwood Country Club, the other guy from Northern Ireland, Graeme McDowell, had the putter working on Friday afternoon to take a three shot lead at the World Golf Challenge Presented By Northwestern Mutual, and a four shot lead over defending champion and tournament host Tiger Woods. First round leader, Nick Watney had more bogeys on his score card than birdies and shoots 73.

2010 US Open Champion, Graeme McDowell got it going early when he picked up birdies at the first three holes. He made his only bogey on the day at the 7th hole, to go with four birdies on the back. He finished with a -6 under par 66, and three shot lead over Bo Van Pelt, who was playing with the host, Jim Furyk, and Keegan Bradley. McDowell, who beat Tiger  in a playoff  here in 2010 said in his post game interview that he likes the tournament, and the golf course fits his eye.

McDowell did not get a win in 2012. His best finish on the PGA Tour, was a second place finish at Bay Hill, and on the European Tour, a fifth place finish at the Open Championship. He is 24th in World Golf Rankings, and finished the Race To Dubai in 9th position.

Bo Van Pelt also shot a great round on Friday playing with Tiger Woods. His finest shot of the day was a laser iron to the par 3, 15th hole that missed an ace by less than a foot. Van Pelt, who has stated he is a little intimidated playing with Woods, had second place by himself until he picked up a bogey at 18. He finished with a -4 under 68, three shots back.

Tiger Woods played better on Friday than he did in the opening round on Thursday. After a bogey at the eighth hole, Tiger made the turn at one under for the day, with birdies at 10, 11, and 13, he made a small charge, and was tied with the leaders for a time. He hit a couple of not so stellar chip shots at 15, and 16 that led to a bogey at 15, and par at 16, dropping him to a 69 on the day, and four strokes back.

Rickie Fowler had the second best round of the day by shooting a very fine -5 under 67, and into a tie with Nick Watney at -4 under par. He will play with the Host when he tees off on Saturday afternoon. Fowler picked up an eagle 3 at the second hole, and with a birdie at 9, made the turn at -3 under par. Like Woods, he birdied 10, and 11 giving him three in a row before he picked up his only bogey of the day at 14. Fowler put an exclamation point on his round with a birdie at the very difficult closing hole, and is only five strokes back.

As the action was winding down on Friday afternoon, the sun was starting to peek through the clouds. That could spell trouble for the players as the greens will undoubtedly dry out a little, and pick up some speed. On the other hand, they should pick up a few yards off of the tee, making for some easier approach shots. The golf course is not severely difficult, but there are a few holes that need some respect. In particular, the par 3 fifteenth, and the par four 18th. These holes can be treacherous coming down the stretch needing a birdie to win.

Tiger Woods has won this tournament five times, but in his five wins, has never been this far back at the mid-point. The two players who have beaten him here are both in the hunt this week. Graeme McDowell who has the lead, and Jim Furyk who is tied for second place, three strokes off the lead, and one stroke up on the Host.


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