Brian Lawless/PA No photography please: Graeme McDowell watches a drive hurtle away on Day Two.
# Irish Open
'I will get stronger and stronger as the weekend goes on' declares McDowell
The Portrush native is two off the lead and on course for his best ever Irish Open finish.

GRAEME MCDOWELL IS well aware that his best ever Irish Open finish is 11th. The Portrush native has rarely fared well in his national championship, ever since his 2002 debut at the event, but he is tied second going into the final two rounds.

McDowell went around Fota Island in 66 strokes on Friday. Were it not for a few missed putts from inside seven feet he may have surpassed the course record set by tournament leader Miko Ilonen on Thursday.

Speaking after his round, McDowell stressed his belief that he will be fighting for his first ever Irish Open win on Sunday. He said, “I feel like I will get stronger and stronger as the weekend goes on, and this morning was a little batter.  Only missed two fairways, iron play was a little sharper, and chipping and putting was a little bit sharper.”

“Still room for improvement,” he added. “I feel like my third week in a row I’m starting to feel my swing a little bit and trying to really kind of getting into a bit of a groove in my game.”

McDowell was happy with elements of his game at the US Open last weekend, despite his challenge faltering over the closing rounds. He paid credit to the home fans for creating a Ryder Cup atmosphere at the Co. Cork golf course. Keeping the ball in play off the tee, he added, was key to his -5 round. He knows more of the same will be required in rounds three and four.

Addressing his patchy form at the Irish Open, he commented, “There’s always a first time for everything.  For me to be competing in The Irish Open, that’s a first.  Having some fun with that.

Normally there’s some pressure and expectation in the Irish Open.  I think maybe coming off the US Open last week with as much pressure and frustration and expectation as you feel there.  Perhaps that’s why I’m dealing with it a little bit better here this week because it nearly feels like the proverbial walk in the park by comparison. Having a good time, golf course is fun.  I’m just looking forward to two more rounds.”

A tournament win may propel McDowell towards a fourth Ryder Cup appearance. He is currently 22nd in the European rankings and 16th on the World Points list. Winning in Cork should see him climb into the European top 10 but he is unlikely to claim an automatic top four spot by seasons’ end, unless he can go on a serious winning run.

Asked if his presence near the top of the leaderboard would cause the likes of Ilonen to quake going into the final rounds, McDowell was briefly modest. ”It would be nice to think of myself as intimidating. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m that intimidating a guy,” he said.

“This is my type of golf course, so I feel like I can hang with anybody around this golf course.”

– Additional reporting by ASAPsports

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