The Open: Graeme McDowell enjoys 'fun morning' at Royal Portrush
McDowell also praises Rory McIlroy for his performance on Friday
Last Updated: 20/07/19 4:59pm
Local hero Graeme McDowell gave the crowd plenty to cheer about with a three-under 68 in the third round of The 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
The early starters had the worst of the conditions on Saturday with blustery winds, but McDowell was still able to lift himself up the leaderboard to two under as he mixed two bogeys with five birdies, the last two coming at the 17th and 18th.
"It was a fun morning generally from the word go this morning. They were 10 deep down the first and second fairways. It was incredible," said the Northern Irishman.
"Obviously without Rory (McIlroy) and Darren (Clarke) here people really focused on me this morning. And alongside Bubba Watson, of course, we pulled a huge crowd. It was an amazing atmosphere.
"It was fun to have that Saturday looseness and kind of aggressiveness going on, but to be able to feed off this amazing crowd and to be able to enjoy it, frankly.
"It didn't have that Thursday, Friday tightness to it, that three shots off the lead tightness. It was relaxed and enjoying it and really taking it all in. It was a lot of fun. Massive crowds and great support."
With the wind dropping in the afternoon, McDowell believes he will be too far behind the leaders to mount a challenge for the title on Sunday.
"I think I'm too far back," he said. "I feel like we're going to end up having the toughest part of the day. I made the most of what I had in front of me, and that's all you can do."
McDowell was pleased to slay some demons with his birdie at the par-four 18th, a hole which he triple-bogeyed on Thursday, as did his compatriot Rory McIlroy, while Darren Clarke missed the cut after closing with a seven on Friday.
"Really nice to make birdie there today, 18 has been pretty cruel to all three Northern Irish lads this week," he said. "I can't imagine how Darren felt yesterday. I was sick for him."
The 39-year-old also praised McIlroy for his performance on Friday as he battled back from his opening 79 with a 65 to just miss out on the final two rounds.
He said: "I think anyone that watched Rory finish yesterday it was exciting. It was like he was winning the tournament coming down the stretch yesterday. He was wearing his heart on his sleeve and he was laying it all out there coming in.
"And to watch him break down a little bit kind of felt like it legitimised my tears in my eyes Thursday morning a little bit. I was on the first tee on Thursday wondering what the hell was wrong with me. But when I saw Rory last night I understand it means a huge amount to us all.
"I think Rory probably won himself a lot of fans last night. To show that raw emotion, to see how much it means to him, to see how much it means to all of us being out here and to bring this great tournament to Portrush, and for him obviously to not play the way he wants to play, the way he battled coming down the stretch says a lot about him as a person.
"It's great in sports when we see emotions because sometimes these guys look like robots out here. We're not robots; we hurt, and we hurt a lot sometimes. It's a tough sport."
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