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Golf: Foreign flavor

Irishman leads World Challenge tournament in Thousand Oaks

Posted: December 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.

THOUSAND OAKS – Graeme McDowell is one of just three international players in the field at the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual.

But he’s feeling right at home after firing a 6-under 66 in the second round Friday to take a three-shot lead at Sherwood Country Club.

“I’m always in a very relaxed mood here because I’m off the back of five weeks on the road and I’m very glad to be back on U.S. soil, which is kind of home soil for me now-a-days,” said McDowell, a Northern Irishman who makes a home in Lake Nona, Fla. “I’m looking forward to a break.”

Coming off tournaments in Australia and Dubai dating back to mid-October, McDowell is making Thousand Oaks his last stop of the season before he’ll take a 10-week break from golf, he said.

But first, he has to hold off the rest of the small, but elite group of golfers through the weekend. There is no cut at the World Challenge, which includes 18 of the top players in the world, 13 of which played in this year’s Ryder Cup.

McDowell started the overcast, drizzly day off with three straight birdies on his way to a seven-birdie, one-bogey round to move to 9-under after 36 holes while Bo Van Pelt, Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk are all lurking behind at 6-under.

Tournament host Tiger Woods shot a 69 on Friday to move to a fifth-place score of 5-under. Woods played a steadier round than he did Thursday and didn’t have to scramble for as many par saves, but he faltered twice on par-3s with bogeys on holes 8 and 15.

In between those miscues, Woods stuck three straight approach shots close enough to sink birdie putts on 9, 10 and 11.

“I certainly hit the ball a lot better than I did yesterday, and I made a couple putts,” said Woods, who won at Sherwood last year and is searching for his sixth victory at the World Challenge.

For the second straight day, it rained on and off, which made the greens very accessible and easy to spin. Forecasts predict more rain through the weekend.

On the same token, calm winds on Friday gave way to low scores on a course that rewards accurate, aggressive hitters.

“I feel like if you can play it aggressively off the tee and hit the fairway, you can pretty much feel like you can birdie every hole,” said McDowell, who ranks fifth in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour this year.

The par-72, 7,023-yard course seems to suit McDowell well. In his two other career starts at the World Challenge at Sherwood, he won in 2010 and took second in 2009.

First-round leader Nick Watney dropped back a stroke after bogeying two of the last three holes he played Friday, placing him in a sixth-place tie with Rickie Fowler at 4-under.

“Just a terrible way to finish,” said Watney, who led the field after an opening-round 67. “But we’re only halfway through, so we’ll see if we can kind of make a charge at those guys in the morning.”

The first group tees off today at 9:30 a.m. and the final twosome of McDowell and Van Pelt start at 10:58 a.m.

Woods plays with Fowler in a group that begins at 10:36 a.m. in round three.


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