Despite revealing being slightly uncomfortable with the volume of social media support Graeme McDowell continued to boost hopes of securing an Open Championship tee time in posting a 67 heading to the weekend rounds of the RBC Canadian Open in Ontario.
McDowell was four-under through 12 holes before ending with a three-under par 68 to be sharing seventh place at eight-under par and he was later joined by Shane Lowry, also with a 68, for the duo to be trailing the leaders by just four shots on the Hamilton Club course.
Rory McIlroy birdied his 17th to join the pair at eight-under par but then proceeded to bogey his last in a round of 66 to be a shot back on seven-under par.
McDowell raced to be four-under par through 12-holes thanks to birdies on his fifth, sixth, eighth and twelfth holes before a first dropped shot on his 13th but managed to birdie 14 before dropping a shot at his 16th ahead of a pair of closing pars.
“I played the first 12 holes absolutely beautifully and I was in the front trap on 4, which was my 13th hole, staring another birdie in the eye and I knifed the bunker shot and three-whacked it,” he said.
“It kind of shook me up a little bit. Went from being calm and collected to being a little bit shaky coming in. So, it was nice to get in there at 3-under par for the day. Lots more good stuff out there.
“I drove it well. Hit some nice short irons today, which I didn’t do well yesterday. I feel very comfortable on these greens, which are tough to putt. You feel like you’ve always got at least a cup or two of break in every one you hit, even short range, and you’ve got to get comfortable with those.”
The good news is that GMac, a winner earlier this year, heads to the weekend still just one shot outside of the three leading non-exempt players inside the top-10 at the end of the Canadian event to secure a Royal Portrush tee time.
And once again, McDowell found himself dealing with post round questions focussing on his Open Championship status when the 39-old is more focussed on a second PGA Tour win this year.
“I feel like I’ve had three or four months wrestling with the Portrush dilemma,” he said.
“I am thinking of putting a statement out on Twitter and saying I appreciate everyone’s concern.
“The people that think I should get an invite and the people that think I shouldn’t, I hear them. But I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that if I play well between now and Portrush I will play. If I don’t play well between now and Portrush I won’t and I’ll deserve not to play. I’m okay with that.
“The R&A don’t have a precedent where they’ve invited guys before and that’s fine. At least I know my fate. I’m going out here trying to win the RBC Canadian Open this week. I could care less about Portrush. I would rather win this week and not play Portrush.
“That’s the bottom line. Yes, it will be a special week, but it’s not instant success. I could be there and miss a cut and think, ‘Well, what was all the fuss about?’ It’s like, I would rather play well on this weekend and let Portrush take care of itself. I really don’t care.”
Shane Lowry soured hopes of a first PGA Tour title in four-years in falling from a share of the second-round lead with a horror four-hole run near the end of his round.
Lowry went into a tie for the lead in holing a 10-foot eagle ‘3’ putt at his 13th but then bogeyed 14, doubled his 16th and dropped a further shot at 17 before restoring some gloss to his round with an 18th hole birdie in a round of 69 to tie with McDowell.
Meanwhile, European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington was heading home early having missed the Canadian cut with scores of 71 and 72 nad he was joined by Seamus Power who missed the cut by a shot with a pair of 70s for an even par total.
The Americans Scott Brown and Matt Kuchar, each posting 63s, head the field on 12-under while Brandt Snedeker smashed the course record by two shots with a score of 60 to be at 11-under par.