Flawless McDowell stays in control at Sherwood

Sat Dec 1, 2012 7:49pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

THOUSAND OAKS, California (Reuters) - Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who relishes playing golf in California, edged closer to his first win in two years by ending the third round of the World Challenge with a two-shot lead.

The Northern Irishman, who despite several close calls has endured a barren title run worldwide since his playoff victory at the World Challenge in 2010, fired a flawless four-under-par 68 on Saturday to post a 13-under total of 203.

"I played very solidly again today," McDowell told reporters after sinking two long-range birdie putts early on to maintain his grip on the tournament. "Bogey free is always nice on any golf course.

McDowell said he was very happy with the way he has been hitting the golf ball.

"It'll be a nice way to finish the year if I can get a good win tomorrow, but there will be a few guys on that board that will have a little something to say about it for sure," he said.

McDowell's closest challenger was first-round leader Keegan Bradley who matched the day's best round with a six-birdie 67 at a rain-soaked Sherwood Country Club to finish at 11 under.

Tournament host and defending champion Tiger Woods, bidding for his fourth victory this year, was a further three strokes back after narrowly missing a seven-foot birdie putt at the last to card a 69.

Woods failed to birdie any of the five par-fives on the hilly course that winds its way below the Santa Monica mountains as he ended the day level with fellow American Bo Van Pelt, who birdied the par-four last for a 70.   Continued...

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland tees off on the 14th hole during the third round of the World Challenge golf tournament in Thousand Oaks, California, December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson