Graeme McDowell extends WGC-HSBC Champions lead

Graeme McDowell. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Graeme McDowell. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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GRAEME McDowell extended his lead in the WGC-HSBC Champions after a flawless five-under-par 67 in the second round at Sheshan International Golf Club.

The Northern Irishman notched five birdies to reach ten under par overall, three ahead of Englishman Ian Poulter (67), who won the tournament in 2012, and four in front of American Bubba Watson (67) and Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata (65).

McDowell has enjoyed a fine record in World Golf Championship events during the past two seasons, finishing in the top ten in six of his last seven appearances, although he is yet to win a WGC title.

“The putter was fairly hot today,” said the former US Open champion. “I didn’t play as well as I did yesterday; I missed a lot more fairways, which is a big key on this golf course.

“You must find fairways to have a chance out there. I got lucky a couple of times and I made some good saves. The greens are fantastic here at Sheshan and I managed to make some putts.

“It wasn’t my best ball-striking round but I hung in there and I’m right where I want to be going into the weekend.”

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McDowell, who helped Europe retain the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September, added: “This event has such a good feel to it. HSBC do a good job, you always get good support, there’s a great atmosphere and the golf course is so well presented.

“The WGCs are a special tier of events and this has always been one that I’ve had my eye on. This is a world-class field and they are bunching up behind me. I’ve just got to keep the pedal down and position myself for Sunday to have a sniff on the back nine.”

Poulter and Watson both enjoyed strong finishes, the latter birdieing the last five holes and the former picking up shots on four of the closing five.

“That’s probably the best I’ve played all year, which is very exciting,” said Poulter. “I only missed a couple of greens. It was a little frustrating for the first 13 holes, missing chances, but I made four birdies in the last five holes so the chances started to go in at the end and I’m very happy.

“I switched to Titleist equipment two weeks ago and it’s fantastic. Obviously shooting five under today, I’m pretty happy. I think the equipment is working very well.”

Masters champion Watson said of his effort: “I hit some good shots but couldn’t make the putts and I hit some bad shots and made the putts. But it was good to finish that strongly.

“It’s kind of the same position I was in last year - I was hanging around right there going into the weekend. I’m looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully I can play a little better this time on the weekend.”

Stephen Gallacher carded a second successive level-par 72 to sit joint-27th at the halfway stage with Marc Warren sitting in a share of 49th after opening efforts of 75 and 72.

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