Graeme McDowell takes a one-stroke lead into the weekend of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun Cityon December 2, 2011
There is nothing like getting your game sharp against 11 of the best players in the world, and that’s what Graeme McDowell is looking forward to as he takes a one-stroke lead into the weekend of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. A 67 at the Gary Player Country Club on Friday lifted McDowell to seven under and one clear of Jason Dufner, Martin Kaymer, Robert Karlsson and Lee Westwood. South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel struggled to a 74 to place him at two under through 36 holes.
But as much as McDowell is focused on the job at hand, he also has an eye on next week’s Dubai World Championship. And that’s where he’s hoping that mixing it up with 11 of the world’s best this weekend will come in handy. “The intensity level is really cranked up here, so this is good preparation for me for next week’s tournament. As a result I can’t enjoy the Castle as much as I would like, or the great South African wine. I’ve got one eye on next week, but one eye on this weekend as well. I’d love to put my name alongside some great names on this trophy. But there are some quality golfers in this field and I’m going to have to play well on the weekend.”
McDowell has set himself a target of 15 under to win this tournament. “I’m kind of surprised nobody has got it to double digits yet. I think a round of five, six or seven under par is on out there. I’m thinking 15 under is my target to have a realistic chance of winning.” McDowell started the second round with a birdie at the first and then parred his way to the ninth tee. He laid the platform for his charge into the lead with birdies at nine, 10, 11 and 13, then pulled his drive into the bush on the par-five 14th. “My second shot can only be described as an air shot. There’s no dressing that one up. My ball was sitting on a rock. I contacted an inch behind the ball, hit the rock and my club bounced right over the ball.”
It was bad luck, but he did enjoy some good fortune earlier in the round.
On the eighth, McDowell also pulled his drive off the tee and it was headed for the bush when it hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway, from where he made par. And he chipped in for birdie on the 13th. After the double on 14, McDowell responded with birdies at 16 and 18 for the lead. “It was a calm and quiet front nine and then an exciting back nine. I’m right in the mix, but it’s such a bunched leaderboard.”
Further down the leaderboard, Darren Clarke produced a remarkable back nine of six birdies, a bogey and two double bogeys on his way to an adventurous 69 and overall total of one under.
The Nedbank Seniors Challenge is also still fiercely contested going into Saturday’s final round of this 54-hole event. Germany’s Bernhard Langer leads by a single stroke on seven under over Ian Woosnam. And Langer, easily the best senior golfer on the planet at the moment, is relishing the opportunity to claim a victory against such a quality field, and on a course where he has such fond memories. “Winning is always special. It never gets old. It would be fantastic to beat this field. There are the best Champions Tour players in the world here. The only one missing is Fred Couples, otherwise you have pretty much everyone who should be here. It’s strong competition, and it’s always good to beat the best.”