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Page last updated at 19:22 GMT, Saturday, 12 July 2008 20:22 UK

McDowell shows stroke of genius

By Thomas McGuigan

Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell is co-leader at the Scottish Open
The Scottish Open doesn't have the necessary appeal to attract all of the world's top golfers ahead of The Open at Royal Birkdale, so the critics say.

But, only defending Open champion Padraig Harrington and injured pair Tiger Woods and Luke Donald are missing from Loch Lomond this week. Woods, recovering from a knee injury, doesn't like to play the course ahead of The Open.

With Loch Lomond not being a links, Harrington has decided to remain in Ireland ahead of defending his Open title.

Neverthless, all the other big-hitters are here. Ernie Els, Phil Mickleson, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson to name but a few.

The attendance figures also suggest the fans are happy to visit Loch Lomond, despite it being a Tiger-free zone and a midge's paradise.

Last year, 18,104 spectators came through the gates for second round of the Scottish Open. This year, that figure rose to 19,876 - higher than any of the previous four years, according to Scottish Open statistics.

Michael Sweeney, a marshal at this year's Scottish Open for the 10th time, believes the event at Loch Lomond is going from strength to strength.

"The American players in particular need this tournament to sharpen their game," Sweeney said. "Maybe the Europeans, and champions like Harrington, don't need that as much because they're used to these types of courses.

"But a number of winners here over the years have performed strongly at The Open or gone on to win it."

Mingling with the spectators, there's certainly an international flavour at Loch Lomond.

For every Scottish voice noticeably discussing the merits of an iron off the tee or Paul Lawrie's short game, a Spanish or American opinion can be heard nearby.

Paul Lawrie
Paul Lawrie gave the home spectators some cheer
Malcolm Langlands and Donald MacDonald, from Edinburgh and Helensburgh respectively, have been monitoring the progress of Miguel Angel Jiminez.

The affable Spaniard attracted a sizeable gallery during his third round with partner, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

Langlands and MacDonald sported See You Jimmy hats, fashioned in the style of Jiminez's shock of red curly hair, much to the amusement of the rest of the crowd.

"He's a great player and a great personality," Langlands told BBC Sport.

"We met him in Doha and decided to wear the hats when we see him play. He acknowledged us this morning and we hope he does well."

Indeed, Jiminez is a crowd-pleaser. Easing himself round the course like a retired Marine general, at complete ease with his surroundings and lot-in-life.

Gerry Knox enjoyed his first experience of the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. His son bought him a ticket for the third round as a birthday present and he was preparing to return home on Sunday.

"I've enjoyed watching the Scottish Open on television," he told BBC Sport. "But to be honest, the TV doesn't do it justice," the 71-year-old added.

Northern Ireland's McDowell is tied for the lead with England's Simon Khan on 10 under par after posting the day's best score of 66.

Scotland's Paul Lawrie finished the day on 6 under par after a 72.

Looking ahead to The Open at Royal Birkdale, McDowell said he hoped his background of being a strong links player would stand him in good stead.

"I played Birkdale recently and I think that links golf is something you grow up with, it's in your blood. Hopefully, I can use that to good effect next week."

Judging by the passion of the spectators at Loch Lomond, golf is in the blood here, too.


see also
European Tour leaderboard
09 Apr 08 |  Live scores


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