GOLF: Graeme McDowell shoots up Scottish Open leaderboard to boost Open qualifying chances

Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell kept his faint hopes of qualifying for the Open Championship alive with a battling third round in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

McDowell overcame the miserable conditions and an early double-bogey seven to card eight birdies in a four-under 68, which lifted him more than 30 places up the leaderboard.

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

The 37-year-old has dropped out of the world’s top 100 for the first time since January 2008 after missing his last three halfway cuts, with a tie for 13th in Dubai in January his best finish in 2017.

The former US Open champion has played in the Open every year since making his debut in 2004, but needs to finish in the top 10 at Dundonald Links to have a chance of claiming one of the three places up for grabs at Royal Birkdale via the Open Qualifying Series.

At five under par, McDowell was four shots behind halfway leaders Padraig Harrington, Alexander Knappe and Callum Shinkwin, who were due out shortly before noon.

Tee times had been brought forward several hours due to the forecast for high winds later in the day, but it was torrential rain which was making life difficult for players and spectators alike in the £5.4million event, part of the European Tour’s Rolex Series.

McDowell’s round was eclipsed by a rollercoaster 67 from England’s Andy Sullivan, which featured six birdies in the first 14 holes and a bogey, double bogey, eagle finish.

“I was absolutely seething standing on that 18th tee, but fortunately we had a bit of a wait because Ross Fisher lost a ball and that allowed me to get my head back on,” said Sullivan, who holed out from a greenside bunker for his eagle.

“If I had to hit that tee shot within a couple of minutes I’m not sure I’d have hit the fairway. It might have gone further because there was a lot of anger on that tee at the time.

“I’m just glad that after putting all the hard work in through the weather I got my reward in the end there. I’ll be going back to the room and doing a rain dance and all sorts and hoping the conditions stay tough for the leaders.”

At seven under par, Sullivan was two shots off the lead when he signed his card, with compatriot Ian Poulter briefly making it a four-way tie for the lead after a birdie on the first.

Poulter and playing partner Callum Shinkwin then bogeyed the fourth, but Shinkwin responded with a birdie on the next to take the outright lead as Padraig Harrington missed two putts from two feet to fall back to seven under.