Three-in-a-row bid over as McDowell misses cut

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Graeme McDowell’s bid for a third successive Alstom Open de France title came to an ignominious early end as the former US Open champion’s poor form this season continued.

McDowell was one of 42 players unable to complete their opening rounds on schedule at Le Golf National after thunderstorms on Thursday resulted in a delay of almost two and a half hours.

The Ryder Cup star had just one hole remaining when play resumed at 0730 local time on Friday and made par on the 18th to complete an opening 72 and lie just four shots off the lead.

However, after a short break McDowell was back out on the course which will stage the 2018 Ryder Cup and slumped to a second round of 78, his worst score in 32 rounds at the venue.

“I struggled to get in the fairway mainly and, as firm and as fast as this course is, if you’re not hitting the fairway you have a bit of a problem getting close to the flag,” said McDowell, whose sole top-10 finish on the European Tour this season came in the Dubai Desert Classic on February 1.

“It’s just a bad first nine both days. I rescued it coming in last night but it was a fast turnaround from a 9pm finish last night to an early start this morning and I just didn’t come out of the blocks this morning at all.

“It’s very disappointing, this course has been so good to me over the years, just not to be this year. It’s a work in progress, I’ll keep grinding and it’s a big summer ahead.”

McDowell, who missed the cut on eight over par after a round containing two double bogeys, three bogeys and no birdies, added on Sky Sports 4: “I have a lot of technique in my head to be honest and I have to strip that out; I’ve got to get back to basics and try to clear the mind.

“I’ve been working too hard on trying to get the technique fixed and been making it worse. I know it’s in there; you take the rough with the smooth and it’s been a great three or four years. I will dig this out and I’ll be back.”

McDowell has recorded just one top-10 finish on the European Tour this season, but that came with a tie for ninth in the Dubai Desert Classic on February 1.

At the other end of the leaderboard, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello held the clubhouse lead as he looked to turn yet another good performance into an overdue third European Tour title.

Cabrera-Bello has finished finished fourth, 13th, second and 11th in his last four events, but bogeyed the 72nd hole in the Irish Open to miss out on a play-off and shot rounds of 74 and 71 after taking the halfway lead in Munich last week.

The 31-year-old added a 70 to his opening 68 to set the clubhouse target on four under par, one ahead of Francesco Molinari, Jaco van Zyl and the English trio of Tyrrell Hatton, James Morrison and Daniel Brooks, whose 66 was the lowest round of the week so far and contained six birdies, an eagle and three bogeys.

Hatton was annoyed to bogey the par-five ninth, his closing hole, in a 68 after taking four to get down from the edge of the green, but told Sky Sports 4: “I’ve been trying to get better with how I deal with shots.

“I got a bit flustered on the last there and hit three not-so good chip shots, but it’s a learning curve and I am trying to get better.”