Brian KeoghComment

McDowell impressed but unbowed by Woods clinic

Brian KeoghComment
McDowell impressed but unbowed by Woods clinic
Graeme McDowell watches Tiger Woods during Friday’s second round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oak, Los Angeles. Pic via  @GolfweekMag

Graeme McDowell watches Tiger Woods during Friday’s second round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oak, Los Angeles. Pic via @GolfweekMag

Most players would be frustrated to play well, shoot 67 and get outscored by five shots by Tiger Woods. Not Graeme McDowell.

The famously gritty Portrush man described Woods’ all but perfect, course record equalling 62 as a “clinic” and “Tigeresque” before adding: “I enjoyed that today. It was pretty cool to watch that kind of golf.”

Far from giving up on his third Northwestern Mutual World Challenge title win in four years - he admits he needs the bad weather to come in as forecast at the weekend - the sportsman in McDowell could not but be impressed after watching Woods hit all 18 greens and missed his only fairway of the day by no more than a club-length.

The world No 1 was also mightily impressive on the greens with two crucial par saves adding to the clinical way he put away his gimme birdies as well as some more testing, slippery chances in a 10-birdie work of art.

“Tiger shot one of the easlier 10 unders I’ve been in a while,” McDowell said after an impressive, bogey free 67 of his own moved him up to solo fourth on five under, six behind his host. “I don’t think he missed a shot. It was Tigeresque.

“He missed the pins on the side you are supposed to miss ‘em and his control of the ball was exceptional. He drove the ball really well. Best I’ve been him drive it in a while so it was good, impressive…

“He was very under control (off the tee). He looks like he has given up a little distance of what he has inside him. He just hit it down the middle of every fairway and didn’t hit that ‘right shot’ that he has kind of had in the bag. Control.

“His rhythm looked very good. He didn’t have the kind of violence with the speed through the ball, it was very smooth rhythm wise. It was a clinic apart from maybe his tee shot on two which he just missed about 10 yards right of his line. He was good today.”

Chasing his sixth win in the $3.5 million event after equalling the course record he set in the second round in 2007, Woods is two strokes clear of first round leader Zach Johnson (68) on 11 under par with Matt Kuchar three back on eight under

But for McDowell, closing a six-shot gap on Woods it is not an insurmountable challenge providing he can get to grips with the pace of the greens.

It goes without saying that another low round by Woods on Saturday could turn the event into a Sunday procession but McDowell believes he can make a run and get close.

“I played quite nicely myself but I can’t get comfortable on these greens,” he said after giving himself 17 birdie putts and missing just two fairways.

“They are just a foot faster than normal here and my speed has been a little off. He made a few nice ones on the front nine which dropped in the front door the way you are supposed to putt these greens.

“He was impressive today. But I am right there in the mix and the forecast is tough for this weekend so I am in touch and hopefully he won’t have another one of those.”

After shooting a fairly scrappy 72 on Thursday, McDowell added: “I hit it much better today and controlled my ball flight better. I just need to get fractionally more comfortable on the greens and we can still compete this weekend. I just need to hit a few downhill sliders in practice and see the high lines.

“The forecast is we are going to get him with everything this weekend. Sunday is supposed to be 30 mph to 40mph sustained gusts. So I am right where I want to be.”

Unfortunately for McDowell, so is Woods.

And the world No 1 could not disguise his delight, giving an informative press conference to the assembled scribes that touched on everything from the best pressure putts of his career to his first meeting with the late Nelson Mandela.

Woods was quizzed for several minutes by a veteran LA columnist on his meeting with the late South African leader, leading to a politically incorrect but still amusing aside.

“He was over there in a corner and he was folding up his newspaper and he was taking so long to fold up his newspaper, and he was so meticulous about it,” Woods said of his 1998 meeting with the late South African leader.

“I asked him why did he pay so much detail to folding up a simple newspaper. He says, ‘When you’re incarcerated for 27 years, you have to slow down time.’

“He’s right. Being incarcerated for that long and having to deal with things, you try to slow up time however you can, and for him being able to read a newspaper and take his time reading it and enjoying it, that’s what he took great pleasure in, and he did it every day.”

The columnist, now part of a dying print industry, was pleased with that answer, adding: “I’m glad to hear about a newspaper reader. But it’s a shame we lost another one.”