Graeme McDowell revels in being King of the Castle
Graeme McDowell now refers to Rory McIlroy as “The Man” — but his own talent was there for all to see again at Castle Stuart, near Inverness, yesterday.
While McIlroy rests up before trying next week to become the youngest Claret Jug holder since 1893 — and the first player ever to make a US Open-Open double his first two majors — McDowell fired a second round 64 to set up the possibility of a second Barclays Scottish Open title in four years.
Last year's US Open champion stands 11 under par at halfway and when play was suspended for the day after two thunderstorm delays he was sharing top spot with Scots Peter Whiteford and Scott Jamieson.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, world numbers one and two, and Open-chasing Colin Montgomerie were among those affected by the hold-up.
Donald and Westwood managed 11 and nine holes respectively and both will resume on seven under, while Montgomerie is one further back and only joint 25th now in pursuit of the top five finish he needs for Sandwich.
McDowell does not know yet whether he will be practising with his fellow Ulsterman and Ryder Cup partner at Royal St George's next Wednesday.
That is expected to be McIlroy's one remaining look at Royal St George's after taking a trip there earlier this week, whereas McDowell is planning 18 holes on Monday and then nine on each of the following two days.
“Of course I would love to have a knock with him,” he said. “I know he's spending a couple of days down there this week and he flew late to Congressional — maybe that's the magic recipe now.
“It's difficult. Everyone has their own little way of building up and he's going to be a busy man.
“We'll have a chat and see what the craic is.”
McDowell was only joint 30th when he resumed on three under, but had an eagle and two birdies in his first four holes — “a dream start” — and then added four more birdies.
“We realised conditions were going to be easy and it was going to be there for the taking a little bit. The course obviously doesn't offer much of a challenge off the tee and there's chances galore, but the greens are tricky.”
Although Royal St George's will be far, far tougher McDowell does not mind the gentle warm-up.
“I think the balance is just right. If we had been coming to a brutal test here maybe you'd be mentally worn out.”
Whiteford and Jamieson were both round in 66, but the latter stood four clear at one point before a double bogey on his penultimate hole, the 218-yard eighth.
Spain's Jose Manuel Lara was one behind, while another Scot —1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, — matched McDowell's 64 to charge to nine under.
Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington and America's world number eight Matt Kuchar are eight under and Ernie Els one further back, while Phil Mickelson came home in 32 with an eagle and two birdies for a 67 that lifted him to four under, a shot inside the expected cut mark, but with half the field still to complete their rounds this morning.