Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell fired a bogey free four-under par 68 on Saturday to take a two-shot lead over Keegan Bradley going into the final round of the World Challenge.
McDowell had a 54-hole total of 13-under 203 at Sherwood Country Club and though his three-stroke overnight lead slipped a notch, he is still well-placed to capture his first victory since he won this tournament in 2010.
That victory capped an outstanding season for McDowell, in which he won the US Open up the Pacific coast at Pebble Beach and delivered the clinching point in Europe’s Ryder Cup win.
This year a victory in the unofficial event hosted by Tiger Woods would give a sweet taste to a mixed season, in which he settled for a tie for second at the US Open and a tie for fifth at The Open.
“It would be nice to kind of get the reward, because I feel like I’ve been playing pretty solidly for a couple of months and got nothing from it,” the player said, who struggled in this year’s Ryder Cup, again won by Europe.
On Sunday, McDowell was to play alongside last year’s PGA Championship winner Bradley, who had six birdies in his five-under 67 and was alone in second place on 205.
Three shots further back was tournament host Woods, who carded his second straight 69 and Bo Van Pelt, who hit a 70 to end on 208.
With the rain-softened Sherwood layout again playing long, McDowell drained lengthy birdie putts at the second and fourth holes, adding birdies at the ninth and 11th before parring his way in.
Woods, who chipped in for birdie at the first and added three birdies in the last five holes to stay in touch, said the soggy conditions made for hard play, even with players allowed to lift, clean and place the ball in the fairway.
Bradley, the first player to win a major title using a long putter with the tip of its handle resting against his midriff, felt more fallout from last week’s announcement by global golf authorities that they propose to ban the practice in 2016.
“I had some guy here call me a cheater on the last hole, which was no fun,” he said.
Bradley, who said last week he believes golf’s rules-makers have put an “X” on the back of all players currently using belly putters, said he did not respond to the heckler.
McDowell, himself no fan of the long putters, said he thought the announcement of the proposed rule change meant “a slight inevitability” to such comments in coming years, as the practice of “anchoring” a putter to the body remains legal, but suspect.
“I’m sure Keegan can handle it,” McDowell said. “Let’s be honest, with a long putter, if it was that easy, everybody would be using them.”