Graeme McDowell called a penalty shot on himself to slip eight shots behind leader Hunter Mahan as Rory McIlroy made a move in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral’s TPC Blue Monster.
The Ulsterman was forced to sign for a one over 73 after he confessed to referee Andy McFee that his ball had moved as he was in the middle of hitting a 35 foot birdie putt at the par-three ninth.
Tied for 24th on one-under, McDowell revealed he was unsure if he would be penalised for hitting his putt as the ball started moving.
He said: “As I made my backstroke, the ball just ever so slightly just started to move. It was kind of too late. I had made my transition, and I just continued on with the putt
“I figured I had to ask before I signed my scorecard. And I was surprised to see it was a one shot penalty, but it’s just kind of one of those horrible Rules of Golf that catches us all out from time to time.”
It was a bizarre day for McDowell, who watched Tiger Woods fall back to tied 34th on level par after a 74 that featured an 85-yard duff off the tee at the second and a skied drive at the par-four 14th that went no more than 120 yards.
Unable to resist a joke at Woods’ expense, McDowell said: “It’s pretty tough not to have a giggle. We all hit bad shots. Hit a couple of those in my time. You know Tiger actually hit two tee shots today, I would say combined didn’t go further than 200 yards.
“He hit that snap hook off two, which didn’t go further than 85 yards. And he hit a popup fly to midfield on 14 there which probably wasn’t about 120, max.
“So a couple interesting ones, you know, but he made four off the one on 14. But you know, bogey off two, one of those anomalies, 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.”
Woods’s drive never got more than 10 feet off the ground, travelling no more than 50 yards in the air before diving into the rough short of the ladies tough. Quail high, as Paul McWeeney, the late golf correspondent of The Irish Times used to say.
Unsurprisingly, Woods was less than happy with his efforts after taking 63 putts for the first two rounds. Only Alvaro Quiros, who shot 70-77, has putted worse for the first two days.
“It’s not the first time I’ve hit a snipe,” he said. “I’ve done it at the Masters. It is what it is.”
The other member of the threeball, Phil Mickelson, carded a 71 to finished the day tied for 34th with Woods on level par. And in common with McDowell, he had a hard time keeping a straight face after witnessing Tiger’s terrible tee shot at the second.
“It was difficult following that,” the left-hander said, barely disguising a smirk. “But it’s really not for me to talk about anybody’s bad drives.”
Mahan added a 71 to his opening 64 to lead by a shot on nine under par from world No 1 Martin Kaymer (70) and Italy’s Francesco Molinari (68).
McIlroy birdied the last from 10 feet for a 69 to trail Mahan by just two shots and share fourth place with Scot Martin Laird (70) and American pair Matt Kuchar (69) and Nick Watney (69) on seven under.
McIlroy said: “To shoot seven under over the first two days here is a pretty good effort and you just try to keep it going for the weekend.”
Padraig Harrington was only four behind Mahan on five under after birdies at the 16th and 17th helped him added a 71 to his opening 68.
He birdied the first but went to the turn in 36 with a birdie at the sixth undone by a couple of three-putt bogeys at the third and seventh.
The Dubliner fought back well, following a bogey at the 13th with birdies at the 16th and 17th, where he holed putts from 10 and six feet respectively.
“It is what it is,” Harrington said after his one under par effort. “I made three bogeys off good approach shots but I’m sure a lot of people will have similar stories to tell.”