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McDowell left in agonising wait as title defence may be cut short



Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell will have to wait until this morning to find out if he will take part in the final two rounds of the Saudi International, and the defending champion is right on the brink.

Play was suspended for two hours at Royal Greens Golf Club yesterday due to dangerous weather, meaning some 49 players are yet to finish their second round, leaving several facing a nervous wait to see if they'll be sticking around for today's and tomorrow's action.

McDowell is one of them, the Ulsterman stuck on level-par after a second consecutive round of 70 and right on the cut mark in a tie for 63rd.

With only the top 65 and ties making it into rounds three and four, all it would take is for three more players to get to one under to end the Rathmore man's title defence and, with several players around the cut mark still with several holes to play, his odds aren't looking good.

The World No.91, who needs to pick up some big finishes to push back up into the world's top 50 to earn an invite to April's Masters, started on the 10th and made the turn in one under after three birdies and two bogeys.

But he couldn't improve on the front nine, dropping three shots in four holes to fall back to one over, and only a birdie at the seventh has him in with a shot of playing the final two rounds.

It's better news for Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin, however, who is at one under par after a sensational finish saw him card a one-under 69 in his second round and should be safely into the weekend in a tie for 52nd.

Like G-Mac, Sharvin started on the 10th and reached the sixth at two over after three bogeys and one birdie, but proceeded to rattle off three straight birdies at the sixth, seventh and eighth which, barring some horrendous bad luck, should be enough.

Open champion Shane Lowry is among those yet to finish his second round but he will be looking towards the top of the leaderboard rather than towards the cut line having hauled himself up to three under par - both on the day and for the tournament - with just the 18th left to play.

But it will take a miraculous finish for Paul Dunne to make it into the weekend, the Wicklow man six over with eight holes still to play of his second round.

At the top of the leaderboard, former Northern Ireland Open champion Ryan Fox is in a share of the lead with Scotland's Stephen Gallacher at 10 under par, with the pair two shots ahead of a group of four at eight under.

New Zealander Fox is the clubhouse leader having signed for a five-under 65 for the day, with Gallacher two under through 12 holes of his second round.

World No.1 Dustin Johnson, who won the first Saudi International in 2019, is right in the mix in that group at eight under - with four holes still to complete of his second round - alongside Andy Sullivan and Bernd Wiesberger, who have both finished, and Marcus Kinhult, who still has two holes to play.

Tyrrell Hatton is six under and Bryson DeChambeau four under with four holes left to play in their second rounds, while Viktor Hovland is already in the clubhouse at six under. Patrick Reed is one under having completed his second round and should be in for the weekend.

Belfast Telegraph

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