McDowell continued to do a great job in trying to be unaffected by having been shown a “yellow card” under the European Tour’s new four-point plan to tackle slow play as he putted his way into the lead heading into the last day at Royal Greens Golf Club, where he’s set for a Ryder Cup reunion with Frenchman Victor Dubuisson in the final group.
However, the 2010 US champion, who will be hit with an instant one-shot penalty if he has another “bad timing”, said he felt uncomfortable early on in the third round at the King Abdullah Economic City course due to he fact he felt “there was a referee around every tree keeping an eye on me, trying to prove I am slow”.
In the wake of what happened on Friday following McDowell’s on-course chat with Tim Barter, the European Tour issued a statement saying that “in-round interviews are an important and popular part” of the circuit’s global broadcast. From now on, though, players in any group deemed to be “out of position”, as was the case with McDowell, Phil Mickelson and Rafa Cabrera Bello, would not be asked to participate.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know any other sport that does interviews in the middle of play,” said Koepka, inset, a four-time major winner, in offering his view after catapulting himself into the top ten in the $3.5 million event on the Red Sea coast with a five-under-par 65.
“I know in football you’re not doing it, unless it’s in the Pro Bowl basketball you’re not doing it unless it’s half-time. This is the only sport where you’re talking to people while they are playing. I won’t do it. I’m not interested in talking about what just happened or the difficulty of the holes ahead. I’m just focussed on one shot at a time, where my ball’s at. I understand why it might be beneficial for the fans, but I don’t get it.”
McDowell, who leads Dubuisson, his Ryder Cup foursomes partner in the 2014 Ryder Cup win at Gleneagles, after holing two monsters from off the green back-to-back coming home in a 66 to sit on 12-under-par, revealed he’d chatted to Keith Pelley about Friday’s scenario after the tour chief arrived in Saudi Arabia.
“I spoke to Keith and I gave them my final take on it, which was that the interview took me out of my rhythm and concentration at that moment,” said the 40-year-old of taking 86 seconds to hit a shot when the permitted time was 50 seconds. “I also truthfully forgot the referee was there because I got out of the moment. So, therefore, I didn’t have the urgency I should have had to get into that shot.
“I felt he [the referee] should have had a little bit of leniency. It was the fourth shot he’d seen me hit and I think it was 25 seconds, 27 seconds and 37 seconds. I was always of the opinion that you got one yellow before you got the red – but there was no quarter given whatsoever for a situation that was not out of my control but was very different.
“That was my final argument and they said, ‘we stand by our decision’, so we drew a line in the sand. Luckily, I was playing with one of the fastest players on the European Tour today in Renato Paratore. But it is important tomorrow to stay in position. I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m having to hit a shot which could cost me a penalty.”
Dubuisson, who is bidding for a first win in just over four years, is McDowell’s closest challenger after firing a bogey-free 65. “It will be a great day as we haven’t played together since the Ryder Cup,” he said of McDowell, the man Paul McGinley picked to help get the best out of the enigmatic Dubuisson in Perthshire.
For the second week in a row, Grant Forrest sits inside the top ten heading into the final day, lying seven off the lead after bagging six birdies in a 66. “This is as good as I’ve felt since coming on to the tour,” declared the 26-year-old. “The changes I have brought into my game over the past six months are starting to take effect.”