Graeme McDowell felt and looked like a champion reborn here at the Barclays Scottish Open yesterday. With his US Open title now inclined to cause more pride than expectation and with another Northern Irishman kind enough to divert the spotlight, McDowell is able to stride forward.
As it was, his second-round 64 saw him take significant steps up the leaderboard from a tie for 30th into a tie for first. On 11-under, McDowell (right) will be in weekend contention to reclaim a title he won in 2008. That was when the stunning but wholly inappropriate environs of Loch Lomond staged The Open's "warm-up tournament".
Some might consider yesterday morning's benign conditions to represent an unsuitable test with Sandwich's severe examination looming. But McDowell is not one of them. The Castle Stuart links was exactly what he wanted. "The balance is just right," said the 31-year-old. "If we had a brutal test here, like a Carnoustie, I think in a way you'd be mentally worn out. The course is a lot of fun to play and is giving us the practice in and around the greens, which is key next week. It's going to give us some confidence but it's probably going to take 20-under or something to win."
The supporters were not complaining about a links without wind – until the afternoon storms came to ruin an idyllic golfing scene, they had seen many go below par, with a few home hopes surging among the leaders – also on 11-under were the Scots Scott Jamieson and Peter Whiteford after a pair of 66s.
But then came rain and the cursed "electrical activity" which forced suspensions and played havoc with the challenges of the likes of Luke Donald, the world No 1, and Lee Westwood, the world No 2. But with the softened ground the fans' fun should not stop. "If we get another two days like this morning, someone could go ridiculously low," said McDowell.Reuse content