Tiger Woods may be putting on a putting clinic at Doral this week (thanks to a session with old friend Steve Stricker), but his third-round playing partner, Graeme McDowell, was keeping up with Woods' birdie fest as the guys at the top of the WGC-Cadillac Championship leader board made the turn.
Beginning the day two shots back of Woods, GMac got off to a blazing start with an eagle on the first and two birdies in his next five holes. After sharing the lead midway through their front nine, McDowell made the turn just a stroke back of his opponent’s 16-under lead.
Though Woods shot out of the gate with three straight birdies to add to the 17 he had already made in the first 36 holes, McDowell was not about to let the former No. 1 intimidate him. Indeed, the 2010 U.S. Open winner was pumped to take on the 14-time major champion.
“I'm sure they [fans and NBC] would have liked Tiger and Phil [Mickelson] in the last group tomorrow, would have been great for the tournament,” McDowell told reporters after posting a 5-under 67 on Friday to draw the 36-hole leader in Saturday’s final pairing. “But I certainly will enjoy the position of being in the last group and the mix. That's right where I wants to be.”
It’s a place McDowell has been before, most notably at Tiger’s unofficial Chevron World Challenge in 2010, when he took down the tourney’s host on the first playoff hole. He also had a front-row seat when Woods broke his two-year winless drought at last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Suffice it to say, McDowell knew what to expect from a day on the links with the golfer who attracts the largest and loudest galleries on tour.
“I've learned a lot over the years playing with him,” he said. “You know, Tiger always brings his own interesting little circus inside the ropes....The intimidating thing about playing with him is what goes on inside the ropes....I've played with him enough now to feel comfortable.”
Update: McDowell three-putted the 10th for par, while Woods canned his 22nd birdie of the week to boost his lead to two shots. Perhaps the three-ring spectacle was beginning to take its toll on the guy from Northern Ireland. Stay tuned...