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Friday, 07 March 2014
Graeme McDowell   (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)

Four Europeans are just a shot off the lead at the halfway stage of the WGC-Cadillac Championship as the Blue Monster again bore its teeth at Trump National Doral.

Graeme McDowell was among only a handful of players not to lose at least one ball on a day when the 68 competing players hit over 100 in the water.

That allowed the former US Open Champion to card a second round 71 to sit level par, one behind the all-American leading quartet of Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Patrick Reed.

And McDowell was joined on level par by compatriot Rory McIlroy, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Wales’ Jamie Donaldson as strong winds led to a day of high scoring in Florida.

“I kept it dry,” said McDowell. “I made one bogey in the second round and I probably should have got that ball up and down as well. 

“One bogey in those conditions, on this tough a golf course - I'm very, very happy to be off the golf course.”

Donaldson’s 70 was the lowest score of round two, and the two-time European Tour winner produced one of the day’s most unlikely birdies at the par five eighth – his 17th.

After driving to within a few inches of the drink, the 38 year old was forced to stand knee-high in the lake for his second but pitched to eight feet with his next for a third birdie of the round, which contained only one bogey.

“When it's like that, you've just got to control the spin of the ball and try and keep it in play really,” said Donaldson.

“I did that well, and missed a couple of greens, which you're going to, and made a few good saves and then made a few good putts.”

McIlroy had turned four over for his round, but got right back into contention with a ten foot birdie at the 11th, a five wood tee shot to two feet at the short 13th and up-and down gain at the driveable par four 16th.

“It was a grind the whole day,” said the former World Number One. “The wind was up, and this course is very exposed. 

“Any wayward shot would find water or find a bunker. 

“I was really pleased with how I played the back nine. I just hung in there, made a couple of birdies and finished the day off strongly which is great, and only one behind going into the weekend, so can't really ask for much more.

“It was a day where you obviously couldn't win the golf tournament, but you could let it get away from you and you could rack up a few big numbers and play yourself out of contention, so very pleased just to play the back nine how I did, dig in, shoot a couple under par and right there for the weekend.”

Molinari had started the day in a share of the lead at three under through 13 holes, but despite clinging to that score for the remainder of round one, a double bogey at the third in round two hampered the former WGC-HSBC Champions winner’s progress.

The Italian bogeyed the seventh for a second round 75, and afterwards said: “Every shot, doesn't matter if it's downwind or into the wind, it's just a really hard guess, and there's water all over the place.

“I'm glad it's over for me today and I get a rest before going out tomorrow.

“I actually feel pretty good but it is tiring mentally out there. There's always a hazard in play almost on every hole, and you can't miss the fairway, you can't miss the green. 

“At some points it was almost three clubs of wind. It was definitely more difficult than yesterday.

“I think I hit a couple of loose tee shots that I didn't hit yesterday, so a couple of penalty shots. But, you know, it's really, really hard out there, so I'm pretty happy the way I played.” 

Despite holing a birdie putt from more than 90 feet at the fourth, World Number One Tiger Woods found himself five over par at the halfway stage, alongside Race to Dubai winner Henrik Stenson.

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