Graeme McDowell shoots 66 in Round 2 for share of Genesis Open lead

Feb 16, 2018; Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; Graeme McDowell acknowledges the crowd after his putt on the ninth green during the second round of the Genesis Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

Graeme McDowell shoots 66 in Round 2 for share of Genesis Open lead

PGA Tour

Graeme McDowell shoots 66 in Round 2 for share of Genesis Open lead

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LOS ANGELES — Hollywood loves a good Western shootout, and the Genesis Open is shaping up to deliver one this weekend.

Friday’s second round closed with a three-way tie at the top with Graeme McDowell, Patrick Cantlay and Sam Saunders locked at 7-under par. But with 25 players within five shots of the lead—including two-time winner Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy—a tantalizing 36-hole sprint to the finish awaits this weekend.

McDowell has posted just one top 10 on the PGA Tour in the last 18 months and opened this year with three missed cuts, but he has found a spark at Riviera Country Club. On Friday he shot the low round of the day with a 66. He’s seeking his first victory since the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico.

“I’m really excited to be going into the weekend of a tournament at the business end of things,” McDowell said. “I’ve enjoyed the way I’ve hit it the last couple of days and I look forward to getting back at it tomorrow.”

“It’s not even about this weekend for me,” he added. “It’s just about continuing to fill up the confidence tank really. That’s pretty much the only thing that’s missing with my game.”

Co-leader Cantlay grew up in Long Beach, Calif., 25 miles south of Riviera, but this isn’t exactly a home game, and you can blame that on L.A.’s infamous gridlock. “I’m staying in a hotel this week. Our place is too far away with traffic,” the 25-year-old explained.

Cantlay shot a 69 to go with Thursday’s 66. “I’m hitting it really well right now. Ball’s coming out of the middle of the clubface and it’s going where I’m looking,” he said.

Adding to Cantlay’s confidence is his familiarity with the 1926 George Thomas and Billy Bell design.

“This golf course has a lot of intricate architecture, especially on the greens and particular hole locations where the ball will feed from certain spots, and knowing that is huge. I know the golf course really well and being here in front of the home fans and being on a golf course that I really know and like is huge. I feel really comfortable.”

Saunders, seeking his first win on the Tour, was tearing up the front nine of the course when darkness fell and suspended play at 5:46 p.m PST. He has three holes to complete Saturday morning. The 30-year-old Floridian is rumored to be the grandson of late golf icon Arnold Palmer, though TV announcers never seem to mention that.

Lurking three strokes back is an upbeat Bubba, who has spent most of his week enjoying things off the golf course. He shot 70 Friday and quickly departed for the NBA all-star game. Earlier this week he taped an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and caught a taping of Big Bang Theory.

“It’s Hollywood. Let’s have some fun and enjoy life,” he said.

Not everyone is enjoying Hollywood as much as Watson, though. Tiger Woods had an early trunk slam, shooting a miserable 76 to miss the cut by four shots. It was his first MC at Riviera since 1993. His playing partner McIlroy didn’t fare much better on the greens in Round 2, but gamely ground out a 69 and sits T15, five off the lead and tied with the third member of his group, Justin Thomas.

Despite hitting just 2 of 14 fairways on Friday, Phil Mickelson will play the weekend. He shot 71 and is in a group at 1 under that includes Jordan Spieth. World No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson recovered from his Thursday 74 with a 69 and is 8 shots off the pace.

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