McDowell struggles in the heat as Lopez Chacarra closes in on maiden MENA Tour win

Ronan MacNamara

Graeme McDowell (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Eugenio Lopez Chacarra will take a five-shot lead into the final round of the MENA Tour season opener in Bangkok after a blistering 63 saw him pull away from the field in round two.

The Spaniard who is missing out on his home open in his home city of Madrid this week is on sixteen-under-par with four players aiming to hunt him down in second place on Sunday,

Richard Bland, Patrick Reed, Sihwan Kim and Harold Varner III are on eleven-under.

After only 26,000 people tuned into Friday’s YouTube stream, a whopping 83,000 logged into the second round stream to watch the famous Lopez Chacarra burn it up in Thailand as he bids for his maiden MENA Tour win for absolutely zero ranking points.

The Spaniard was blemish free in his nine-under round which included an eagle on the par-5 6th.

Just three players from the top-50 in the world occupy the top-15 places on the leaderboard in a tournament that has lacked star quality.

After various cancellations due to financial issues and the COVID-19 Pandemic it is good to see such healthy crowds turn out to see the return of this famous Dubai based tour and Irish fans will have plenty of interest this season as Graeme McDowell sees out his swan song years in the professional game.

McDowell struggled to a one-over 73 to fall back to three-under-par through 36 holes as the world number 414 crumbled under the pressure of trying to earn his first win since the Saudi International in 2020.

Branden Grace had to withdraw from this week’s exhibition due to injury during round two and his participation in the Jeddah and Tour Championship exhibitions where he was due to go head to head with former world number one Dustin Johnson to see who takes home $30 million for accumulating the most points throughout the season of exhibitions is in doubt.

The 34-year-old South African already won in Portland this year but one has to question whether withdrawing while holding a share of the lead would have happened if he was back in his prime on the DP World Tour. It could be a precautionary measure from Grace ahead of the lucrative tour championship, or a lack of motivation seeing as he just plays exhibition golf.

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