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Bridgestone Invitational: Graeme McDowell’s chances going up in smoke

In the north-east Ohio city famous for its annual ‘Soapbox Derby', Graeme McDowell crashed from an overnight share of second place with an erratic driving display on day two of the WGC — Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

McDowell lost sight of the chequered flag with a round that included five bogeys and just two birdies for a 73 and a one-under par total on the Firestone Country Club course.

The US Open champion's difficulties were, however, put in perspective by the Tiger Woods' continued woe after the American carded a two-over-par 72 and slumped to six-over near the foot of the leaderboard.

Woods' 270-week reign as world number one looks increasing under threat from Phil Mickelson as he continues to struggle since returning from a break after revelations about his personal life.

South African Retief Goosen carded a 66 to move one stroke clear of the field on seven-year par but with first round leader, Bubba Watson joining him near the outward half of the Florida golfer's round.

McDowell ended Thursday's round with four birdies in succession in a four-under par 66 but the Ulster player, who commenced day two from the 10th, had given-up two shots with back-to-back bogeys at his third and fourth holes.

He then regrouped by landing a 7-iron to just six feet at his eighth hole ahead of laying-up short at the par five, second hole (11th) to take a bunker out of play.

McDowell was rewarded when produced a deft chip shot from 60-yards out to just two feet for his only other birdie in the round.

What followed was in stark contrast to less than 24-hours earlier with McDowell dropping shots at his 13th and then his closing two holes.

“I was very sloppy and just missed too many fairways and just put myself a little bit out of position,” he said.

“I wasn't missing them by much but just sort of a few yards here and there, just making it difficult to make birdies.

“I also didn't scramble very well and I also putted like an idiot.

“So it's bit disappointing to shoot a 73 as I had it going around the turn and just finished badly.”

McDowell played the first two rounds in the company of Padraig Harrington and they could not be separated with Harrington adding a 70 to finish tied with his fellow Major Champion.

Harrington started his round by holing a two-footer for birdie at his second hole but the golf course jumped up and bit the Dubliner at his 10th hole (1st) when he found rough with his drive ahead of coming up 83-feet short with his second. He then chipped to 22-feet but proceeded to three-putt for a double bogey six.

However after getting a free drop from a cart path at his next hole, Harrington delighted in putting a 40-yard bunker shot to just two feet and knocking in only the second birdie of his round.

Then as he had done over his outward nine, Harrington then pared his closing seven holes.

While McDowell and Harrington were staring at an afternoon on the practice range, Rory McIlroy was enduring a roller-coaster start to his second round with two birdies and just as many bogeys after just seven holes.

Meanwhile, Colin Montgomerie believes Woods is “not mentally with it” as he raised doubts about the American's chances of competing in the Ryder Cup.

The 34-year-old has struggled since revelations about his personal life, but European captain Montgomerie hopes he will launch a challenge to be a part of it.

The Scot said: “He's not mentally with it right now, that's obvious. I hope he gets back to some form shortly.”

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