CORK, Ireland — Graeme McDowell birdied four of his closing eight holes to join two-time runner-up Robert Rock in the lead early on day two of the Irish Open on Friday.
Both players shot 5-under-par 66 to move to 8 under for the tournament in superb scoring conditions at the Fota Island course.
McDowell, looking to win the Irish Open for the first time, birdied three holes in succession from his 11th, and birdied his 15th.
It was his lowest 36-hole tally on European Tour in 15 months, since he was 11 under en route to a tie for third in last year’s Cadillac Championship at Doral.
"My game still requires some work but I feel like as I play my way into the summer, I feel my golf swing, my short game, and my putting is starting to get stronger," he said. "So I am a feel player and I’m a guy that needs to spend time on the golf course with a card in his pocket to see where he’s at.
"And coming off last week’s U.S. Open, pressure and expectations are not as high this week, and I feel very comfortable."
Rock was also feeling at home. Five years ago in Baltray, Rock lost to then-rookie Shane Lowry in a playoff. Rock’s only consolation was Lowry’s amateur status meant he had to forfeit the 500,000 euros first prize cheque. A year ago, Rock was joint runner-up in Dublin to fellow Englishman Paul Casey.
"It is more to do with the time of year (for me), as I played well at the start of the year but then struggled, and your confidence takes a bit of a bashing. But then you work hard and I seem to start to play well again and it all turns around," he said.
Italy’s Marco Crespi (67) and England’s Matthew Nixon (65) shared third place in the clubhouse on 7 under.
Overnight leader Mikko Ilonen of Finland, who set a course record with his opening 64, teed off in the afternoon.