Graeme McDowell is up to 16th on the Asian Tour’s International Series England leaderboard at Close House after a second-round 69 saw him move to -2 for the tournament and trail the leaders by four.
McDowell’s approach play was impressive as he hit 16 of 18 greens in round two, but six birdies were offset by four bogeys – including two three-putts – in a round that could’ve been much lower had he not required 32 putts in total.
Speaking after his first round, McDowell said he would love to see the Asian Tour visit Royal Portrush, believing that there is potential for the Asian tour to come to Ireland and praising the support the Asian tour is receiving from household names on the LIV tour.
“Asian Tour Portrush, yeah, obviously I’d love to go up there, obviously we’re kind of happy with the partnership that we have now with the Asian Tour and Cho [CEO of Asian Tour Cho Minn Thant] and his whole team”, McDowell said.
“I think they’re a great team and I think we’re proud as LIV players and top players and guys that are obviously big names coming over to support the Asian Tour and I think it’s great to see them benefitting from it and I think it’s just the beginning, where can this go? I think you can go to great places”.
McDowell said that it’s important that the Asian Tour follow other tours and make themselves a global tour.
“Asia has to take advantage of new markets, new opportunities and take their players around the world because speaking from my point of view, I think it made me a better player playing on the European Tour when I was young because I got exposure to all different types of cultures and golf courses and grasses and environments around the world,” he told the media.
“I think it’s great to see the Asian Tour travelling and coming to new destinations, so we say global destinations. I think it’s great for the game, it’s great for the business of the game and I think that’s like I say, every tour in the world’s doing it now so it’s definitely important to follow suit.”
McDowell trails 21-year-old Spaniard David Puig and 38-year-old American Jason Kokrak by four strokes going into moving day. Puig’s 66 was the second lowest of the day and came despite missing six of 18 greens with all five of his birdies coming on the front nine.
Kokrak, who’d opened with a 67, followed up with a two-under 69 to take 36-hole co-leader honours and they’re a stroke clear of the USA’s Andy Ogletree and Australian Jack Thompson, with the former taking low round of the day honours with a 65.
“I’m Hitting the ball pretty good, the putts that dropped at the beginning didn’t drop at the end but overall, pretty happy,” said Puig, who’s another that plays on the LIV Tour.
“It was tough. But at the end of the day it’s a pretty short course so I have a lot of wedges in. It was maybe an extra club off the tee on some of those holes, but at the end of the day, you’re hitting the same club into the green.
“It was obviously a little more windy than yesterday, but I don’t think it played that tough because the greens are still pretty receptive and with preferred lies. But it was a grind too, I mean you needed to hit good shots to have birdie opportunities, and I think I did.”
Kokrak didn’t feel he’d had his best in round two but is hoping that slight improvements will see him kick on over the closing two rounds.
“Yesterday with the way I got around, I hit it really nicely,” he said. “Didn’t have my best stuff today, didn’t hit it quite as good. Made a few putts to start the round to kind of keep it going, a couple five, eight footers here and there, but hopefully, you know, tidy a few things up and make a few putts over the weekend”, he said.
Lee Westwood shot a four-over-par 75 to finish just the right side of the cutline on three-over-par, alongside Ian Poulter’s son, Luke, who shot a 74 to make the cut as an amateur.
McDowell tees off at 11.40am tomorrow alongside Miguel Tabuena and Taichi Ko.