Woods puts up with stick

People have been laughing at Tiger Woods' expense for the past year or so, but now it seems even his rivals are joining in. Graeme McDowell was doubtless being mischievous when talking of having to suppress the chortles at a few of his playing partner's drives but the Ulsterman's admission was surely a reflection of the state of Woods's game.

"Yeah, it was pretty tough not to have a giggle," said McDowell, referring to one Woods "snap hook which didn't go further than 85 yards". "We all hit bad shots. I've hit a couple of those in my time. You know, Tiger actually hit two tee-shots today which I would say combined didn't go further than 200 yards."

As McDowell pointed out, there was also "a pop-up fly to midfield which probably was about 120 yards, max". It summed up another frustrating day for the former world No 1 in the second round of the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral. Woods' 74 left him at level par, nine off Hunter Mahan's lead going into yesterday's third round. It suggested he is no closer to solving his technical problems, with the Masters looming in less than four weeks' time.

McDowell felt for Woods. "The guy is working on his golf swing and working hard on things, and every now and again you have a few weird ones in there," said the US Open champion, who was one-under after calling a penalty on himself in his second-round 73. "You know, if he would have made par after that drive we would probably have given him a bit of crap for it. But since he made bogey, we didn't really want to cross the line. I actually hit a similar shot with him in Shanghai before Christmas there, and he gave me a little bit of stick for that. But I made par and he didn't."

Woods faced a huge challenge to get back into contention. Not only was Mahan – the winner of last year's WGC Bridgestone Invitational – looking good but in second place stood the world No 1 Martin Kaymer. The German's second-round 70 to lie on eight under – one off Mahan's pace – was merely the latest indication that he is eminently suited to the role he grasped off Lee Westwood just two weeks ago.

"After winning the USPGA last August a lot of people thought this may be the end of my career, especially in Germany," said the 26-year-old. "Nobody really thought I can keep up that level. That's why it was even more important for me to keep winning."