McDowell strides forward out of spotlight

Graeme McDowell felt and looked like a champion reborn here at the 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 will be in contention on the weekend at an event he won back in 2008. That was when the stunning but wholly inappropriate environs of Loch Lomond staged The Open Championship'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 just 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 golf 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."

He rightly made the point that a links without wind is "generally pretty low scoring". The supporters didn't complain; until the afternoon storms arrived which ruined what was an idyllic golfing scene. They had watched any number of the competitors surge below par. Furthermore there were a few home hopes among the leaders. Also on 11-under, were the Scots Scott Jamieson and Peter Whiteford after a pair of 66s.

But then came the 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 fun shouldn't stop. "If we get another couple of days like this morning, someone could go ridiculously low," said McDowell. Could someone do the magical 59? I don't know. Typically I prefer the tougher test, but it's nice to shoot 64s and know I can do it. The art of going low is very important. My schedule is set up to play tough courses and you kind of lose that art. It's great to get the low juices going again."

If his body language is anything to go by, those juices have an intoxicating quality. But then, so too does the lifting of all that baggage he carried after his remarkable breakthrough at Pebble Beach 12 months ago. "I really shouldn't be complaining about the burden of being US Open champion," he said. "But it did have a negative side to it in the last few months leading up to Congressional. I wanted to push on with my game and didn't feel I could, spending all my time living in 2010."

McDowell put up a commendable defence in Maryland, a tie for 11 being the very least his ball-striking deserved. But he, like the rest, was labouring in the shadow of another Ulster hero. And that's fine as McDowell is concerned. "There's another Northern Irishman to take all the attention off me," he said. "I'll let him handle that at next week's Open. I'm happy just to push on and start playing well again." Rory McIlroy will be mindful of the level of golf his pal can produce. With four wins last year McDowell proved he comes alive at the scent of victory - and the Ryder Cup provided mere confirmation that he is the man for the big occasion. In all probability he will have to peak again in the Highlands. In behind are the likes of Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington and the American Matt Kuchar on eight-under.

Donald and Westwood, meanwhile, are on seven-under with nine and seven holes respectively to complete this morning. The latter can finish in the top five and reclaim the top-dog mantle in the rankings if his rival comes outside the top 25. However, that now appears unlikely. Westwood will probably have to finish in the top two if he wants to become the first Briton to take the No 1 tag into his home Open in 18 years.

Playing with Donald is Colin Montgomerie on six-under. The 48-year-old needs at least to finish in the top five to have a chance of claiming the one Sandwich berth on offer here. He will have returned to the course first thing today down in 25th place and aware that plenty was required if he is to extend his run in the Open to 22 championships.

Still, Monty was two better than Phil Mickelson, although the sponsors will simply be relieved to see the left-hander make the cut. A 66 was so much more attractive than his opening 73, but Mickelson will need first to survive the chop and then delve deep into his box of miracles to make up the seven shots he has thus far conceded to the pacesetters.


Scottish Open at Castle Stuart (British and Irish unless stated) 78 players were still to finish their second rounds when play ended for the day:

11 under S Jamieson (after 36 holes)

G McDowell (36)

P Whiteford (36)

10 under J M Lara (Spa) (36)

9 under A Cabrera (Arg) (36)

N Colsaerts (Bel) (36)

P Lawrie (36)

8 under M Brier (Aut) (36)

D Dixon (36)

P Harrington (36)

M Kuchar (US) (36)

C Nilsson (Swe) (36)

J Rose (36)

J Donaldson (23)

M Tullo (Chile) (21)

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam