Rd 2 Saudi Intl – Players speak – The top 3 – Perez, Green and McDowell

The top three after two days at the Saudi International are a shot apart with  Victor Perez (-10), Gavin Green (-9) and Graeme McDowell (-8).

Excerpts of interviews:

Victor Perez (FRA) 65-65 (-10) – Leader

Obviously very please the with the second round. I think it was important to keep the hammer down after obviously an expected 65 in the wind yesterday. I think they were definitely the tougher conditions, and it’s one of those days where you hope to stay a couple under.

And I was able to play really well yesterday, and obviously coming out this morning, this is the round where you have to try to take as much advantage as you can and put some points on the board, and obviously in a very good position for tomorrow.

On howdifficult is it to back up another good round like Round 1?

Yeah, it’s obviously difficult because you feel like you’re playing well and you want obviously things to work, but. I was able to make some birdies early which got me going, and then you feel like it kind of frees up a little bit. You see that you’re ahead, and you just want to try to increase the lead.

 

I feel like I’ve been able to hole some good putts. I feel like that’s everybody’s — when they are playing well, generally the guys that are up at the top of the leaderboard are generally putting really well.

I feel like I’ve been able to hole some key putts, and it also frees you up. You don’t feel like you have to hit the ball really stiff and you feel like you’re taking advantage of your opportunities, and that’s what I’ve done really well so far.

 

After the bogeys on the front nine, your back nine, talk us through the ninth hole, birdie?

Obviously the wind coming off the left a little bit, really warm. I feel like we’ve taken ten degrees in the last hour or so, and I was trying to hit a little off the left side of the bunker and the ball never really turned. I pulled it a little bit and I got fortunate to end up where I ended up. It could have been in the rough and then it would have been more — but playing the middle of the green, I was in the sand and I was able to take ball first and give myself a good look and obviously very, very good to finish with a birdie.

 

How confident do you feel now on The European Tour in your brief career, with the success last year (win at Dunhill Links) and the good finish in Abu Dhabi?

 

Obviously I feel like I’m getting more confident and it’s about getting reps (repetitions). You see Lee Westwood winning in Abu Dhabi; he’s been winning for so long, he knows his way around and what to do. He has a very clear idea of what he need to do out there, and I’m getting more comfortable out there. It’s just about putting yourself in contention as much as possible and then you see how you play.

And I was able to play really well yesterday, and obviously coming out this morning, this is the round where you have to try to take as much advantage as you can and put some points on the board, and obviously in a very good position for tomorrow.

 

Gavin Green (Malaysia) 64-67 (-9) – Second

 

In the tough conditions this afternoon, how pleased are you with 67?

Yeah, I’m pleased with it for sure. A bit like yesterday, I had two three-putts, and hit 18 greens, really can’t complain. Obviously a few putts slipped away here and there, but I played solid overall. I can’t really complain. Wind picked up and obviously conditions were a lot harder. Really picked up towards the last few holes. We could tell because a few holes were like, whoa, it’s just like almost a three-club wind almost.

Just hung in there and really just stuck with hitting my own shots.

I think I’ve done pretty well so far. I’m really not complaining. I’ve got no complaints. I’ve been hitting it solid and putting the balls in the right position. Some holes, we just didn’t even go for the pins. We just played 30, 40 feet left and just take 2-putts. A couple times I had 3-putts, which I was like, well, it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss, because the greens are so tricky out here, especially with the wind. It doesn’t make it any easier.

On Playing with Victor (Perez) in Round 3?

I think it will be fun. It’s just like college days again. We’ve been friends since college and it will be great fun.

I’m sure we will, talk about some stuff. It’s been a couple years. I think played with him probably early this year, or actually last year, so it’s been a while. I know he’s been playing really good. Just have fun with him tomorrow.

 

Your highlights on 4 and 6?

I hit a great drive on 4, and it was like 225 metres, crosswind. Solid 3-iron to about 35, 40 feet and 2-putted and made birdie there.

(On) 6, did not expect that birdie. I hit a good drive a little bit right, and we had 190 metres. Just trying to play it right into the upslope so it creeps over and runs down, and it just came out hot. I hit a 5-iron straight in the fan and it came out hot. I was like, man, that thing’s got to sit down. We got up there and somehow it worked out for us. Not sure what happened. But very pleased with today.


Excited about the weekend?

I’m excited just to be in the mix. I’ve been there a couple times and just try to put myself in the position a couple more times and see what happens.

 

Graeme McDowell (Ire) 64-68 (-8) – Third

 

A 68, backing up a sterling performance on day one with a really solid display today. What are your thoughts on it?

It’s always hard to come out right after a good round like I shot yesterday and try and keep the pedal down. I felt like I played pretty loose today. It was obviously better conditions this morning.

I three-putted the 11th, my second hole of the morning, which sort of derailed me a little bit. I continued to hit fairways which is key on this golf course. I hit some really quality iron shots. I think the back nine in particular is quite difficult on this course.

It was tough to get going. A couple of birdies on the front were very pleasing and it was nice to hang in there coming in. All in all, very happy the way I hit the ball today and looking forward to being in position going into this weekend.

You’re not a slow player, but unfortunately you picked up a bad time out there today. With the change in the rules, does it give you a different feeling, a different mind-set going into the rest of the week because you carry it with you?

I think so. I think I got a monitoring bad time which then turns into being officially on the clock. I just did an interview with Tim Barter, so I was 50 yards behind the guys; and I was up there and first to go and, got up there and I was first to go and I had 215 yards into the wind. It was a difficult shot.

I would called a time-out(a player is allowed one time out of 40 seconds) if that had been something that was automatic in my brain. It’s just, you know, the last thing I think of out there. I called a time-out after I hit the shot, but the referee was not really willing to give me any kind of room for error at all.

Then, you know, that kind of upset my rhythm for a couple holes. But hey, we’ve got to play faster. You know, slow golf, it doesn’t help the viewer and it doesn’t help the club golfer on the weekend and we’ve just got to play fast, you know. That’s something I’m working hard on doing. I really feel like my routine over the last few years has gotten better and better and better. I was disappointed to get that bad time, but it is what it is.

We’ve been watching you win tournaments for an awful long time into your 40s and still playing great golf, a winner last year on the PGA Tour. When you look at how golf has evolved into more of a power game, how do you make up the gap with your game?

I went through the process of trying to get longer, throwing myself at speed speaks, jumping around. I came to the conclusion that it affects the rest of my game too much. My rhythm speeds up and I start swinging too fast at everything.

I came to the conclusion that I feel like I’m long enough to compete right now. I’m not driving it short. I’m driving it average length, which is long enough to compete most weeks and I’m just trying to get better at what time good at, which is inside of 150 yards; be better with my wedges and continue to chip and bunker play and be one of the best putters I can be. I think being comfortable in your own skin, that’s what you’ve got to do out here. It’s a hard game, 350 yards off the tee, that’s only one little part of it and there’s a lot more to it.

Reflecting on the 68 in Round 2?

Solid. Nothing special. I think starting on the back nine is tough on this course. I believe that the back nine just feels a little more difficult and more benign conditions this morning.

So it was kind of a little bit more there in front of you. I three-putted the 11th, my second hole. Kind of got me off to an edgy start and I made a nice birdie on 15, burned the edge on 16, great chance on 17 and great chance on 18.

It was really just a little bit colder with the putter today, and that was really the only difference between a great round yesterday and an average enough one today. But very happy with my position. Looking forward to the weekend.

How hard is it to back up a fantastic round like yesterday, a 64?

Yeah, I thought it was a good round. Last night at the hotel, obviously a lot of the lads around and they were all congratulating me on what they thought was a pretty great round. I guess it was strong in the conditions. Like you say, it’s always tough to back it up.

It’s only Friday morning. You’re at the top of the leaderboard. You still get that top of the leaderboard feel when you have three rounds to go. You have nothing to protect, especially in benign conditions like this and you know you’ve got to try and put the foot down, but it’s hard to do.

Now that we’re into the weekend, it’s all to play for for 36 holes left and I feel like I’m playing well enough to compete and get the job done but we’ll see what happens.

The highlights?

(On) 4, I hit a really nice drive, which has been one of the key, really, to the way I’ve played the last two days is driving the ball in the fairway. I couldn’t get there in two. I had a strong 3-wood up there just short of the green and hit a really nice pitch to four feet and made that.

(On) 5, I hit a beautiful drive. Caught the edge of the rough. Got a little fortunate with my second shot. I was hacking a wedge trying to get it in the middle of the green and pulled it up there around six feet and we made that. That was nice to sort of steady the round and get me back in the right direction. Left a few chances out there today, but I feel like if I can clean up my putting up a little bit going into this weekend, then I’ve got a great chance.

 

Just touch on the incident late in the round; your point of view, and did it affect you?

Yeah, we got put on the monitoring — in a monitoring situation on the 4th where they are just trying to get you back into position. I thought we played 4 pretty well.

On 5, I hit a pretty nice tee shot. Tim Barter is out there interviewing for SKY Sports and he asked me to do an interview walking up the fairway, which I said yes to, and when I got to my ball, I was first up. So I was 50 yards behind the guys with 215 yards back into the wind with a 3-iron and the wind laid down. I took an extra few seconds and he gave me a monitoring penalty, which puts me officially on the clock at that point.
Upset my rhythm for a couple holes. I was trying to play too fast. I was disappointed that he didn’t give me a little bit more room for error on the situation, but hey, we’ve got to play faster, simple as.

And I get where everybody’s coming from with the new rules. So I think they are great. I just was kind of unduly affected me. Maybe wrongly so; I felt like I had been playing pretty fast till that point.

How determined are you to play 11 better over the weekend?

It’s funny, Rafa played 13, he played that 5-over for the two days. So it made my 3-over on 11 not seem so bad.

I’m pretty determined to play 11 well tomorrow and into the weekend. I hit a lovely little 8-iron over the top of the flag today. I had 25 feet for birdie. Ripped it four feet by and missed the one back and thought, here we go again on 11. But yeah, it’s got my number at the hole at the minute but hopefully I get my own back.

 

 

 

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