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McDowell tumbles out of top ten after difficult second round at Bay Hill

The 34-year-old carded a second-round 75, dropping 39 places at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Graeme McDowell during his second round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Graeme McDowell during his second round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

GRAEME MCDOWELL WILL have his work cut out for him this weekend after his second round 75 saw him tumble out of the top 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Off in search of a spot at this year’s Open in Portrush, the 34-year-old produced a wonderful opening round 68 in Florida on Thursday to leave him with a share of third.

Starting Friday’s round just three shots off leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello, McDowell struggled to find anything to smile about and picked up just a single birdie over the course of the afternoon.

With a maximum of three Open qualification places on offer to those who finish in the top 10 this week, the Portrush native knows he will have to reverse his fortunes if he is to be in a position to challenge for a second-ever major in his hometown.

Starting Friday’s round on the back nine, McDowell dropped his first shot of the day on 17 before a wonderful 18ft birdie putt brought him back to four under-par.

His form did begin to deteriorate around the turn after bogeys on the first and second hole.

This time around, however, McDowell was unable to claw back the deficit and dropped another shot on the seventh to leave him with three bogeys on his final nine holes.

The result leaves him back on one under-par and tied for 42nd, falling 39 places.

PGA: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard - Second Round Graeme McDowell struggled on his final nine holes of the afternoon to drop out of the top 10. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who won last year with an 18-under 270 total, fired a 70 and is tied for 31st.

The golf course is hard,” said McIlroy. “It’s probably more of a test off the tee than the last few weeks. If I hit fairways on the weekend, I’ll feel like I’ve got a good chance.”

Tommy Fleetwood, meanwhile, drained two eagles en route to grabbing a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the Invitational in Florida.

The 28-year-old Englishman, who is seeking his first title on the US Tour, posted a six-under 66 at the Bay Hill course to tie Keegan Bradley at the top of the leaderboard with a nine-under 135 total.

Former PGA Championship winner Bradley fired a four-under 68 to seize a share of a 36-hole lead for the first time since 2013.

Fleetwood rolled in eagles on the sixth and 12th holes to become the only player to have two eagles in a round twice this season. He also did it in his most recent start at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

“Hopefully, I can continue to play well around here,” said Fleetwood, who now has nine straight sub-70 second round scores on the Tour.

It was just nice to have a day like that and just constantly feel at ease, really, with hitting good golf shots.”

Fleetwood’s last tournament win came on the European Tour when he captured the 2018 Abu Dhabi event.

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His has finished runner-up twice in his career on the PGA Tour at last year’s US Open and the 2017 WGC-Mexico Championship.

“I’ve done a lot of good things over the last two, three years,” he said. “That would be the next logical step to win in America or win on the PGA Tour and then see where we go from there.”

Jhonattan Vegas and Billy Horschel are part of a group of six golfers at five-under 139, four strokes back of the Fleetwood and Bradley.

Vegas shot a two-under 70 and Horschel, who teed off in the morning group, had a 71.

First round leader Rafa Cabrera Bello shot a 75 and is tied for ninth.

Among the players missing the cut by one stroke are Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh.

Former champion Mickelson missed the cut with rounds of 68 and 78.

“That’s probably the score I deserved,” he said of his 78 which included a couple of double bogeys.

– Additional reporting © AFP 2019 

Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

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