McDowell in his element at the Blue Monster
  Graeme McDowell showed his fighting qualities on a tough day at Trump National Doral. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Graeme McDowell showed his fighting qualities on a tough day at Trump National Doral. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

Graeme McDowell showed the patience of Job and the toughness thats become his trademark as he survived a battle of attrition with the wind-lashed Blue Monster on day of total carnage in the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

The 2010 US Open champion loves a scrap and showed it when he chiseled out an incredible, one under 71 — the joint second best score of the day — to end it tied for fifth place with Rory McIlroy, Jamie Donaldson and Francesco Molinari on level par, just a stroke behind co-leaders Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan.

“I don't think I've played in conditions this difficult in the US,” McDowell said, clearly delighted with his score. “It's an Open Championship day.  It's a real Friday afternoon at St. Andrews in 2010, you know, before they called it.

“It was hard out there, really, really hard, and part of me feels ecstatic to be off the golf course right now. 

“Obviously I'm really happy with my 71 and I'm excited to go and watch the golf here and just see how everyone else is handling these really hard conditions."

The field average for round two was 76.00 compared to 73.8 for the first round, which wasn't completed until mid-morning. But McDowell was loathe to kick the set up or the designer Gil Hanse.

“You can't really really call it unfair when everyone gets a chance to play it," he said.  “It wasn't like anything was really going to make a difference in regards to fair or unfair.

"Let’s be honest, you can't criticise the golf course, because you play these types of conditions last year on this golf course and it's going to be brutal.”

  Graeme McDowell is fifth for putting at Doral after taking 26 putts for the second day running. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Graeme McDowell is fifth for putting at Doral after taking 26 putts for the second day running. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

It was a wonderful effort from McDowell on a day of many disasters with winds gusting to 36 mph. No fewer than 113 balls ended up in the water, including 24 at the par-five eighth, 18 at the par-three 15th and 17 at the tough third.

As McDowell was grinding, new Doral owner Donald Trump roamed the media centre and told the scribes: "The Blue Monster is back!"

The field struggled but McDowell almost made it look easy as he plotted his way around.

He completed a one over 73 in the morning and summed up his round: “Windy. Firm. Tough. You’ve got to be very patient out there. It’s very difficult. It could have been 78, it could have been 68. It was a mixed bag… But I’m hitting it well.”

Starting on the back nine, he birdied the long 12th with a wedge to 11ft, holed a six footer for par at the next and then hit a glorious low draw with a fairway wood from the rough to find the apron of the 14th from where he two putted from 90 feet for par.

With a north wind gusting treacherously on a course more exposed than ever following the redesign, he should have been in his element but looked to be suffering as much as his playing partners, the temperamental Bubba Watson (72) and the normally serene Steve Stricker (78).

Forced to save par from 10 feet after overshooting the exposed 16th and from four feet at the 17th after a long range approach putt, he missed an eight footer for birdie at the downwind 18th before stroking home a 30 footer at the second to move into the top 10 on one-under.

He had one of just four bogey free rounds going until he overshot the sixth and had no chance of getting his pitch close.

But he then got up and down for par from 53 yards at the seventh and parred the par-five eighth and two putted the ninth from long range for a 71 that was only bettered by Donaldson's magnificent 70.

The field could be grateful that the greens slowed up later in the day.

"They certainly were not cut between rounds, let's put it that way," McDowell said. "You could see them darken up in colour a little bit. I hit a wedge to the fifth hole, which actually made a fairly significant ball mark, so you could see they had put a little water in places. 

"But I mean, the greens are incredibly firm, as most new surfaces are when you lay them, and you know, for it to remain playable today was amazing, really, for it to be gusting to 35, 40, whatever it was today. 

"Some of the iron shots were very, very difficult out there today. I mean, 14 was my two Sunday bests to get onto that green, and the pin wasn't exactly easy, let's put it that way."