Graeme McDowell is weighing up his options after submitting his forms to play the opening $25 million LIV Golf Invitational Series event in London next month.
he Portrush man faces a major decision — join up to 10 English players at the Centurion Club if he defies the PGA Tour decision not to grant releases to the prospective rebels and risk being banned from the Ryder Cup.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Richard Bland are set to defy the DP World Tour should they also refuse releases, while Laurie Canter, Sam Horsfield, Jordan Smith, David Horsey, Robert Rock, Ross McGowan and Oliver Fisher are undecided.
LIV Chief Executive Greg Norman has promised to back the rebels in court or by paying fines.
But while world No 371 McDowell (42) could bank a minimum of $1.19 million for finishing last in the eight events, he risks being banned from the Ryder Cup as a player, assistant captain or captain.
Meanwhile, Niall Kearney is seeking his maiden win after carding a four-under 67 to lie just two shots off the lead in the Soudal Open at halfway.
He shares sixth on six-under, just two shots behind Germany’s Matti Schmid and English duo Horsfield and Dale Whitnell at Rinkven International in Antwerp.
“I played really well today,” said Kearney, who ranks first for strokes gained tee-to-green. “I feel I could have gone five or six better, to be honest. I holed a few putts but had a lot of chances inside 10 feet that I didn’t convert. I could have gone really low today.”
With two-month-old baby girls at home, a maiden would be massive for Kearney, and he feels good about his chances on a course he loves.
“It really suits my eye,” he said. “Tree-lined with great definition. The game is good. I haven’t played all that much recently, but I’ve been working on my game at home the last few weeks, and I am hitting it very well.”
Schmidt shot 64 as Horsfield and Whitnell carded 69s to lead by a shot on eight-under from Portugal’s Ricardo Santos and England’s Richard Mansell, but Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin missed the one-under cut by three shots around rounds of 74 and 71, respectively.
In Dallas, Ryan Palmer shot a 10-under 62 and England’s David Skinns a 63 to lead the AT&T Byron Nelson by a shot in the clubhouse from Justin Lower on 15-under with Seamus Power and John Murphy among the later starters.
In the Regions Tradition, the opening senior major of the season, Pádraig Harrington birdied four of his last six holes in a six-under 66 to grab a share of the clubhouse lead with Scott McCarron on nine-under at Greystone in Alabama.
On the LPGA Tour in New Jersey, Stephanie Meadow’s 72 left her 13 shots behind Australia’s Minjee Lee in the Cognizant Founders Cup on one under.
But Leona Maguire bogeyed three of her last six holes for a 76 and looked set to miss her third cut on the trot as she was two shots outside the projected cut mark on one-over.
Meanwhile, Carton House’s Mark Boucher shot a best of the day 73 to share the halfway lead with Castle’s Robert Moran and Ballybofey and Stranorlar’s Ryan Griffin on level par in the Flogas Irish Amateur Open at The Island.
The Island proved the big winner for the second day running as winds gusting to 35 kmph left the elite field struggling.
The scoring average for the morning wave was in the 80s before the southwest wind eased. But even then, not one player in the 132-man field could match par.
Overnight leader Matthew Wilson of Scotland bogeyed the 17th and double-bogeyed the 18th to card a 76 that left him tied for fourth on one-over-par with West of Ireland champion Alan Fahy (74) from Bray and The Island’s Joseph Hanney (75).
They are one stroke behind Boucher, Griffin and Moran, who came from the “wrong” side of the draw, chiselling out a 74 in the worst of the wind.
Griffin also shot 74 thanks to an eagle two at the 18th, where he holed a six-iron from 168 yards.
“I played lovely in the past few days, even on the wrong side of the draw,” Moran said. “It’s all about plotting my way around the course over the weekend. You can’t chase shots around here. Hopefully, a few more putts go in tomorrow and I’ll be fine.”
Boucher followed early birdies at the 10th and 12th with bogeys at the 16th, 18th and seventh for his 73.
“I made a couple of sloppy mistakes coming in, but I am happy enough,” he said. “I would have taken 73 at the start of the day.”
Fahy was five-over through nine holes, having started on the back nine before picking up two shots at the third and fourth.
“It was all about keeping the head down and making par,” he said. “It was a grind out there. Every shot requires a lot of concentration. The wind takes it out of you.”
Defending champion Peter O’Keeffe from Douglas is tied 31st on eight-over after a 78 with the top 50 and ties after Saturday’s third round qualifying for Sunday’s final round.