G-Mac grabs Nedbank lead

A resurgent Graeme McDowell leads by one shot heading into the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

A resurgent Graeme McDowell leads by one shot heading into the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

The former US Open champion from Northern Ireland carded a five-under-par 67 at the Gary Player Country Club on Friday to lie on seven under par for the tournament – and this despite a nasty double bogey seven at the 14th.

Seven birdies – two on the front nine and five on the back – helped offset the damage, however.

McDowell leads a crowded leaderboard, with four players lying only one shot off his lead – American Jason Dufner (68), Germany’s Martin Kaymer (68), Swede Robert Karlsson (69) and joint overnight leader Lee Westwood of England, who followed up his opening 68 with a steady second-round 70.

Two shots further back are Korea’s Kyung-Tae Kim (70) and another Englishman, Simon Dyson (70), while Dane Anders Hansen (69) lies a shot back on three under.

World No 1 Luke Donald (72) is a shot behind Hansen on two under, tied with Charl Schwartzel, who also could do no better than a 72 that included a double bogey at the eighth.

Darren Clarke followed up his opening 74 with a much healthier 69, and at one under is only six shots off the lead and still not out of the race.

Only Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who slumped to a 77 that left him on five over, probably finds himself out of the running.

McDowell birdied the first and ninth holes for an outward 34 and then picked up three more strokes at the 10th, 11th and 13th – the latter coming from a chip-in from off the green – to reach seven under par.

The double bogey was to follow, but he picked himself up and made two more birdies in his last three holes to erase the damage and retake the sole lead.

“That’s exactly what I wanted,” McDowell told Sky Sports 1. “It’s a pretty bunched leaderboard, which says a lot about how tough the course is when you start leaving the beaten track.

“There is so much trouble lurking here, so you’ve got to be really decisive off the tee – the second you start steering, you get into big trouble.

“I’m very happy to finish with a couple of birdies after a bit of a whoopsie on the par five.”

McDowell spent a long time on the range after his opening round on Thursday, and it seemed to pay off.

“I spoke to my coach Pete Cowen who told me to tighten up my backswing a bit and I felt like I controlled my ball a bit better today, so thanks Pete!”

Kaymer also looked good with a 68 on the day, which featured one bogey, three birdies and an impressive eagle at the par-five 10th. One shot off the lead, he’s right in the thick of things.

“I played well again, the same as yesterday,” said Kaymer. “I look forward to the weekend, I think I’ve put myself in a good position.

“I had a few good weeks in China last month which gave me a bit of confidence.”