(Reuters) - A day after an almost calamitous start to the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Graeme McDowell found himself in an unexpected position, the halfway leader after the second round at the PGA Tour event in Mexico on Friday.
The Northern Irishman rediscovered his long game and caught fire with his putter to reel off nine birdies in an eight-under-par 63 on the El Camaleon course in Playa del Carmen.
“I drove the ball much, much better today than yesterday and putted just as good, really seeing these greens well, putting decisively and making a few,” McDowell told PGATour.com after posting a 12-under 130 total, one shot better than American Derek Fathauer (66) and two ahead of South Korean Kim Si-woo (64) and Harold Varner III (62).
McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, almost checked out of the tournament before he had barely started.
He sprayed his drive out-of-bounds at the first hole on Thursday, reloaded and then almost met the same fate with his second drive (his third shot).
Had the second drive been out-of-bounds too, he would have been forced to play again from the tee, but the ball stopped narrowly in play and he salvaged what in the end was a good double-bogey.
“I hit my second ball further right than I hit my first,” said the 36-year-old Northern Irishman known in the golf world as G-Mac. “I figured I could be going home very very soon. Thankfully my second ball kicked in-bounds.”
McDowell is having a mediocre year by his own standards and his world ranking has dropped to 85th, but he believes he is trending in the right direction.
“This is a result of three or four months of grinding,” he said of his lofty position. “I’ve been working hard on my swing.
“It’s been a frustrating year but that’s the game of golf we know and love and you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and keep trying.”
(This story corrects Kim’s leaderboard position in third paragraph.)
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine