Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

McDowell and Dunbar find it rough going

Tough day: Graeme McDowell had to dig deep at AugustaGraeme McDowell faced a nervy couple of hours waiting to see if he had made the cut at the Masters last night while the other half of the Portrush contingent, amateur Alan Dunbar, bowed out with his head held high.

Dunbar's second round 77 was a massive improvement on his harrowing introduction to the Augusta National on Thursday when he was ten over after eight holes.

He negotiated those holes in just one over yesterday, finishing on 16 over par for the two rounds.

"I just thought I would go out and try and hit the ball in better places and managed that at times, even though it's hard to do," said the 22-year-old.

"I'll remember the whole week. What a great experience.

"I got off to a bad start in the first round but I still enjoyed the experience and I hope to get back some day.

"It's just different than any place else. Today, between groups, they were out working on the course and blowing away the leaves and everything."

Dunbar (pictured) will miss out on his place at June's US Open as he turns professional next week which is perhaps all for the best after the rather chastening experience of Thursday morning.

Despite picking up a birdie four on the second hole, McDowell spent most of the day flirting with the cut mark which chopped and changed between four and five over as the early tournament leaders fell away with the top 70 and ties going through to the weekend.

McDowell always talks up his chances at the Masters – particularly now that he has become a regular at the majors.

He puts great store by learning how to play the course and as this is his sixth visit, he has as much experience of the place as many in the field.

The Ulsterman has two top 20 finishes at this event and displayed his gritty qualities to the full last year fighting back over the weekend from again near the cut mark to finish in a tie for 12th, in contrast to fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy who gave up the ghost after his own poor first couple of days.

McDowell was reasonably well placed one over par at the beginning of the day and his chances of being at the sharp end of the tournament on Sunday increased notably with his wonderful bunker shot at the par five second.

In fact, the ball came within inches of dropping in for an eagle three but as it was the tap-in for birdie left him within five of the lead at that stage level for the tournament.

But that was as good as it was to get as he handed that shot back with a three putt at the next and he dropped two more shots to the turn at the seventh and, disappointingly, the par five eighth.

More trouble was then to come at the difficult long par four 11th at the start of Amen Corner and the bogey there took him right on the projected cut mark of four over par.

His situation wasn't improved by his failure to take advantage of either of the par fives on the back nine as he faced the difficult last three holes hoping the revitalised Tiger Woods, cruising on five under at the turn, would not rip up the back nine behind him with the ten shot cut rule in place.

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