By Fatiha Betscher in Saudi.
Former champ Graeme McDowell safely made his way into the weekend rounds of the Saudi International before surprising Richard Bland with a 50th icing-laden birthday cake.
McDowell, winner of the now Asian Tour event in 2020, added a three-under 67 to his opening round of 70 to be sharing 30th place in the $US 5m event on the Royal Greens course to the north of Jeddah.
Fellow LIV golfer Abraham Ancer continues to lead the way moving to 11-under-par thanks to scores of 63 and 66.
McDowell arrived on the first tee decked out in a black shirt and pink shorts while his long-time caddy Ken Comboy was wearing the opposite, a pink shirt and black shorts.
No matter the clothing contrast as the pair gelled immediately with three birdies in their opening four holes, and in the then ideal scoring conditions.
McDowell bogeyed the seventh but held it together over the inward nine for his 67.
“Shooting three-under is kind of nice as I kind of wrestled with it early on but I managed to figure some stuff out today which helped,” he said.
“I am kind of dealing with having a card back in my pocket and really, I am just happy to have two more rounds over the weekend so that I can continue my preparations into this new year.
“Obviously, you want to be in contention every week you are out here but there are times when you are not as prepared at this early time of the year, as you would like to be.
“So, I’m happy to hang in the way I did today. I am feeling good on the greens but then it’s always nice to guarantee yourself weekend work.”
McDowell then waited beside the scorer’s hut, birthday cake in hand thanks to the girls from IMG working the event, with Bland playing two groups behind leaving the scorer’s hut following scores of a pair 67s to be tied in eighth place to be surprised by the Irishman.
SUPRISE, SUPRISE … .
With good friend @Graeme_McDowell helping surpise Richard Bland with a 🎂on the occasion of his 5⃣0⃣th
birthday on day two @SaudiIntlGolf
📽️a bit ‘wobbly’ but stay with it 👏
✅ @TOURMISS pic.twitter.com/EWcN2bC9R1
— Golf & Science News (@TOURMISS) February 3, 2023
There were six candles with Bland removing one candle remarking: “Let’s make it five candles for five decades of my life!”
He then took a big sample of the icing with his right index finger.
“That tastes nice and thanks G Mac, it’s a nice surprise,” said Bland. “We might share this around for dessert tonight.”
Among those he offered a slice was double-major winning Brooks Koepka, who also waited around to congratulate the golfer known as ‘Blandy’, and who arrived in Saudi Arabia on the back of two straight top-10s on the DP World Tour.
- Full scoring HERE
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