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The Open: Back-to-back Majors still on, says McDowell

US Open champion Graeme McDowell's confidence is so high at the moment that he does not see a seven-shot deficit as a barrier to winning back-to-back majors.

The Ulsterman admits he has made the most of his victory at Pebble Beach last month in terms of celebrations but, after a second-round 68 at the Open, he moved to five-under for the tournament.

Although that is seven behind leader Louis Oosthuizen, McDowell is not over-awed by the challenge.

“For sure, Louis' 12-under-par on the tough side of the draw is a great score and if he keeps playing like that, obviously he's going to be tough to catch,” said the 30-year-old last night.

“But this is a major weekend. Obviously , the weather is going to be a huge element and I'm happy to be in position.

“He (Oosthuizen) has got a long time to wait until tomorrow afternoon and there's trouble out there.

“I'm going into this weekend with no expectations at all. I'm really putting no pressure on myself.

“I've got myself in great position. I'll be out tomorrow and free-swinging, just really trying to control the ball in this weather.”

McDowell added: “I love being in contention going into the weekend. It's weird saying I'm in contention when I'm seven back, but there's not too many guys in front of me.

“I love the way I'm playing, so I think I can have a good weekend from here.”

Gareth Maybin’s first foray into the Open has ended at the halfway mark after the Ballyclare man recorded a 76, to leave him at four-over par and he’ll have to watch the rest of the event from the comfort of his armchair.

But failing a collapse of epic proportions, Darren Clarke — runner-up in the Scottish Open last weekend — will return for the business end of the event.

When the hooter sounded in the darkening skies off the Perthshire coast, Clarke had completed 15 of his second-round holes and, with four-under on his card, showed that his display at Loch Lomond was no flash in the pan.

A birdie at three was cancelled out by a six on the par-five fifth, but he retrieved it again on the seventh. Four pars came around the turn before another shot was shipped at the 12th, but then came a mini-surge with two birdies on the trot.

The ever-dwindling crowd were rewarded for their loyalty with a putt on 13 that had fans of a certain age casting their minds back to Terry Wogan’s marathon effort on Pro-Celebrity Golf many moons ago.

Even Clarke couldn’t believe it as his putt from all of 100 feet dropped into the hole and fittingly, as he made the long trek to retrieve the ball his hat was blown off in the gusting gale. Well, it was a hat’s off moment after all.

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