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McDowell finds more reasons to be cheerful

By Karl MacGinty

There were contrasting fortunes for Graeme McDowell and fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy at the WGC-CA Championship yesterday.

McIlroy still found the going tough and was one over par through 17 holes for a total score of five over when a storm arrived to halt play.

But McDowell had more reason to smile after his two under score through 16 left him on level par during his second round at Doral in Miami.

Birdies at the first and 12th holes had the Portrush man moving in the right direction.

After a year in which he failed to win for the first time since his rookie season in 1990, Ernie Els has given himself a great chance to reignite his career.

Hours and hours on the practice range paid dividends with a second-round 66.

On 10 under par at halfway, the 40-year-old South African goes into the weekend one in front of Australian Robert Allenby, whose second eventful day in a row included a hole-in-one with a fairway wood at the 245-yard 13th.

“I went back to the drawing board basically,” said Els. “I was a little bit worried going out this week because I've not really tested it in competition.

“But it's been two good days, especially where I was last week. I just got out of whack and when you make changes you've got to hit a million balls to get used to it.”

Allenby has so far had three eagles, 12 birdies, seven bogeys and a double bogey as he tries for his first victory in the United States since 2001.

Playing partners Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, went in totally opposite directions.

Harrington moved into contention on six under following a 68, but three weeks on from his World Match Play victory Poulter crashed to near last place on six over with a 78, and then revealed that he had nearly quit the event because of a neck problem.

The pair finished their day's work just before the first of two thunderstorm delays, officials wisely having brought forward tee-times by nearly three and a half hours to get in as much play as possible.

Harrington's only 2009 success came in the non-Tour Irish PGA Championship, but he was making no promises about putting that right this weekend.

The Dubliner has dropped to 13th in the world with nothing better than a 16th place finish in four starts so far this season.

With that in mind he said: “I have a tradition, unfortunately for me, that I don't normally win out of the blue.

“It's very rare. I normally warm up by getting into contention a few times.

“I'm happy with my scoring, but I made a few mental errors out there and missed a few putts.”

Poulter had seven bogeys in his round but then said: “I don't want to make excuses for that round, but I nearly didn't play yesterday,” said the world number five.

“The neck's been coming on for a while and the pillows are not very good this week.

“My usual physio guy is in Australia, so I had to get some treatment when I got to the course and as I went to practice I still wasn't sure I'd be playing.”

There is no halfway cut in the tournament and he will have to make a decision on whether it is wise to continue for the closing 36 holes if the problem persists.

Belfast Telegraph

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