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Graeme McDowell hails 'heating' putter after claiming Saudi International lead ahead of final round

"I always tells my kids we live in a nice house because daddy can putt"

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Graeme McDowell claimed the lead in the Saudi International (Niall Carson/PA)

Graeme McDowell claimed the lead in the Saudi International (Niall Carson/PA)

Graeme McDowell claimed the lead in the Saudi International (Niall Carson/PA)

Graeme McDowell is in pole position to land a first European Tour title since 2014 after gaining the outright lead going into the final round of the Saudi International.

The 40-year-old set himself apart with a stunning four under par back nine 31 as he overhauled overnight leader Victor Perez, Galvin Green and held off an early charge from defending champion Dustin Johnston.

McDowell goes into Sunday's final round on 12 under par, one shot ahead of former Ryder Cup partner Victor Dubuisson. Green is a further two behind with the chasing pack of Johnston, Renato Paratore and Perez, who shot disappointing three over 73, five shots back.

The Portrush man picked up an early birdie on the second and kept his momentum going with a stunning up and down after hitting the cart-path on the par three third. His only bogey of the day arrived at the eighth, where he found a greenside bunker and was forced to play away from the pin.

A lengthy putt saved par on the ninth, teeing up that back nine, with three birdies in a row from the 12th to 14th, two with mammoth putts from off the green, crowned by a closing birdie on the par five 18th.

Earleir this week, McDowell confessed he was concentrating on his strengths rather than attempting gain more length off the tee and his trademark short-iron accuracy has back up his words, as did his work with the flatstick on Saturday's closing stretch.

"Those two putts from off the green on 12 and 13, those are massive bonuses at that point," he said. "You can't expect to make putts like that but I always tells my kids we live in a nice house because daddy can putt."

"The putter has been ice cold over the last couple of days but it heated up a bit on the back nine. It was really pleasing to get a few birdies there because I think the back nine has played difficult.

"I'm going to have to putt well to have a chance tomorrow."

McDowell will tee off in the final group with Dubuisson at 10am (GMT) on Sunday morning.

"I  keep an eye out for Victor and it's nice to see him up there on the leaderboard," he said. "It's not going to be easy to play against him tomorrow."

Victory could have huge ramifications for McDowell's season, not only boosting him up the Ryder Cup qualification ranks, but also lifting him from 104th to inside the world's top 50.

If he could maintain that mark until April, he would qualify for the Masters.

Belfast Telegraph