Graeme McDowell throws down the gauntlet
Graeme McDowell put his years of experience in tough conditions on Ulster's beautiful north coast to good use in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Florida last night.
The Portrush native battled high winds before finishing at level for his 36 holes after a second round 71 to throw down the gauntlet to the rest of the field.
Fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy was close by after an excellent first round 70 had been followed by some solid golf.
"I can't remember playing in tougher conditions on this side of the pond. Maybe the Open has been tougher," said McDowell.
"I am looking forward to seeing how everyone else handles the conditions.
"I had played so many holes that I was hoping the guys behind me got to play that many holes in those conditions too.
"It was really hard to control the ball flight.
"It was a battle out there in the strong winds.
"You cannot fault the course – they have done an amazing job here.
"The same weather conditions on last year's course would have been a battle as well."
McDowell was level with the card after he had picked up a stroke on the day through 16 holes.
Hunter Mahan had taken a slender advantage at the top of the leaderboard after he was one of the few players to make ground as high winds played havoc at Doral.
Mahan was one of just four players to have shot an under-par score in the second round, as the redesigned Blue Monster course claimed the world's top two, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, and Phil Mickelson among its victims.
Mahan had initially bogeyed his first hole, but a pair of birdies through his opening eight holes meant he held a one-stroke advantage over fellow American Dustin Johnson.
Johnson, playing in the group behind Mahan, was level for his round.
Patrick Reed had taken the first-round lead, after a number of players completed rain-delayed rounds yesterday morning, but had dropped two shots through 14 holes to be two off the pace.
With low scoring proving almost impossible, holding ground was the order of the day.
That was something the world's best were unable to do as the likes of Woods and Scott, playing alongside each other, were in danger of missing the halfway cut.
Woods had crashed to six over, joined by Mickelson and Justin Rose, while Scott's slide was even more extreme as he was a shot worse off.
Scott had begun his incomplete first round on two under, and one stroke off the overnight lead, but after he lost six shots in his first five holes things did not improve in his second round.
The Australian had dropped four shots through 13 holes of his second round and nine strokes for the day.
Woods had made a similarly horror start after resuming his first round, dropping four shots in his first four holes, but a hat-trick of birdies limited the damage in a round of 76.
The world number one, who struggled with a back problem last week, had lost a further shot in his second round, although with a projected cut around at around four over he remained hopeful of playing at the weekend.
Mickelson and Rose looked to be heading the wrong way after both lost four shots through nine and 14 holes respectively of their second rounds.
Wales' Jamie Donaldson was one of the few players to tame the blustery conditions as he had moved to even for the tournament after picking up two shots before the turn.
But for the rest this is going to be a test against the conditions.